Plan seeks to untangle North End traffic as towers rise

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BOSTON – Averting traffic woes in the area around Boston’s North Station – as huge office, residential and hotel towers begin to rise in the neighborhood – is the goal of a city planning effort that kicked off this week.

After an initial phase, a transportation consultant will be sought next year to aid in the effort to ease traffic and promote better circulation around the commuter rail station, Government Center and the North End, according to the Boston Redevelopment Authority, or BRA. Its goal is to map out transportation strategies for the next 15 years.

As one of the oldest parts of Boston grows, traffic congestion remains a persistent concern, in no small part because many residents commute on foot. According to U.S. Census Bureau 2013 American Community Survey data reported by the BRA, nearly half of area residents walk to work, while 22 percent commute by public transportation. The privately funded $400,000 planning project aims to help ensure the ease and safety of pedestrians while also dealing with the efficient circulation of vehicle traffic, including to events at TD Garden on Causeway Street.

Growth in the area is expected to be substantial, with about 7.7 million square-feet of new space planned or under construction, the agency said. That includes six major projects that will create more than 2,700 residential units and more than 700 hotel rooms, BRA data show.

Development plans include the Avalon North Station, with more than 500 residences on Nashua Street; One Canal, with 320 units in the Bullfinch Triangle area; Lovejoy Wharf, with 175 units at 131 Beverley St., the Boston Garden project, with almost 500 residences and over 300 hotel rooms at 80 Causeway St.; the 470-unit Garden Garage tower, and the massive Government Center Garage redevelopment, with almost 800 residences and over 200 hotel rooms at 50 New Sudbury St. A hotel-only project, at 111 North St. in Haymarket Square, calls for another 225 rooms.

The BRA, working with the city’s transportation department, expect to call for proposals from prospective consultants on the plan in January. Creating the Transportation Action Plan for the area is slated to take about nine months and will include a look at preferred modes of travel around the city, whether by foot, transit, biking or driving, the BRA said. The plan will also propose a list of long-term strategic investments that may be considered to enhance public transit.

Along with the development under way, other significant projects planned in the neighborhood include Connect Historic Boston, which would upgrade Causeway Street to improve bicycle and pedestrian access. The state is also contemplating realigning part of Storrow Drive near Massachusetts General Hospital. The traffic plan will take those projects into account as it outlines public and private investment priorities, according to the city development agency.

Contributors to the project’s funding include Mass. General, Delaware North, Equity Residential, AvalonBay Communities, Related Beal, Boston Properties, HYM Investment Group and Trinity Financial. Each agency has agreed to put in $50,000.