Federal transportation officials are set to send $15 million to Massachusetts for an overhaul of Blue Hill Avenue, a project aimed at improving access to public transportation and refashioning a key economic corridor of the city, US Reps. Ayanna Pressley and Stephen Lynch said.
Blue Hill Avenue runs from Mattapan Square up through to the intersection of the avenue and Warren Street in Grove Hall, with minority-owned small businesses, schools and places of worship such as Morning Star Baptist Church along the route.
The expected funding comes through the US Department of Transportation’s Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability & Equity (RAISE) grant program. The funding would include support for a dedicated bus lane in the corridor, which has high bus ridership levels and would see faster travel times with the new lane.
Other changes to the Blue Hill Avenue corridor, as part of the proposed overhaul, call for more pedestrian-friendly crossings and sidewalks, bike share stations, an improved tree canopy and public art from local artists.
“I’m proud to have helped secure this critical funding for the Blue Hill Ave project, which will make our public transit more reliable, safe, and climate resilient while connecting folks in Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan to jobs, food, and essential services like education and healthcare,” Rep. Pressley said in a statement.
Lynch, who along with Rep. Pressley represents Boston in Washington, D.C., called the funding “critical.” “Blue Hill Avenue serves as a primary channel for public transportation and this reconstruction will improve safety and accessibility for passengers and residents of all surrounding communities,” he said in his own statement.
Pressley earlier this year wrote a letter to President Biden’s transportation chief, Pete Buttigieg, noting that the project has been in the works for “more than a decade.” The total cost of the project is an estimated $39.5 million, with the city of Boston and the MBTA kicking in some money in addition to the RAISE grant’s $15 million.
The funding comes as Mayor Michelle Wu pushes to use $8 million in federal recovery funds to pay for two years of three fare-free bus routes, including Route 28, which runs along Blue Hill Avenue. The proposal, which is before the City Council, expands on a four-month fare-free Route 28 pilot that is scheduled to end in December.
“Commute times for residents here are among the longest anywhere in Boston, deepening inequities,” Wu said in response to the news of the RAISE funding for Blue Hill Avenue. “I’m grateful to Representatives Pressley and Lynch for their leadership to secure these critical funds, which will accelerate the City’s work to bring transformative change to Blue Hill Avenue. We will continue to move urgently on the Blue Hill Avenue Corridor Multimodal project to supercharge our economic recovery and connect our communities.”