December 21, 2022
The incoming Healey-Driscoll administration will have its hands full over the coming weeks as it endeavors to execute a smooth transition and get a jump on its priorities for successful governance.
But the new Democrat-led executive team would do well to get its best and brightest engaged early and expeditiously on coastal Dorchester, where a confluence of development projects, deferred maintenance, and climate change pressures are about to crash into each other with the force of a tsunami.
If harnessed correctly and with the proper urgency, the new basketball-loving governor and her team can put some big points on her first-quarter scoreboard by paying close attention to what’s happening in our neighborhood.
The most pressing need from the Commonwealth’s perspective is to put some coordination, funding, and leadership into the vulnerable, aging infrastructure along Morrissey Boulevard, the state-owned parkway that runs past the waterfront from Neponset to Koszciuzko circle.
A plan to modernize, elevate, and add sensible elements for safe passage for bicylists and pedestrians has been languishing under the current administration, which seemed content to let the next team figure out the complex and politically sensitive solutions. With thousands of new housing units now in the pipeline along Morrissey— a good many of them now just months away from occupancy— there’s really no cushion left in terms of a timeframe for planning.
The same holds true for the critically important public transit hub at JFK-UMass, which has now gone several decades without a substantial investment in repair or rebuild. And, as the Reporter has documented in recent stories, the facility has become more than an embarrassing eyesore. It’s both a hazard and a hindrance in a part of the city that’s about to grow exponentially.
In 2015, a well-meaning group of Boston leaders from business, sports, and politics advanced an ambitious plan to bring the 2024 Summer Olympic games to Boston. Their vision, in part, was to catalyze major investment in infrastructure that could serve the region long after the games decamped. The Morrissey-Columbia Point area would have been ground zero for the effort, with a sprawling Athletes Village planned for the UMass-owned Bayside campus.
Now, in place of the ’24 Summer Games, there’s the $5 billion, 36-acre Dorchester Bay City development that is quickly heading toward key approvals from city planners, perhaps as soon as next summer. And while the city of Boston and the Wu administration are providing the necessary oversight to the project right now, it will require state leadership to make sure the corresponding needs are met for assets like Day Boulevard, Morrissey, JFK-UMass station and, of course, Kosziusko Circle.
The Healey team might do well to treat this challenge as though the Olympics bid never was scrapped. Apply that same urgency to mobilize a public-private effort that can align engineering prowess, taxpayer dollars, and private funds from massive projects like Dorchester Bay City. It will take an all-star team from the state side— with some personal attention from the governor herself— to make it happen. And it’ll be far from a layup or a quick jump shot. But it would be a huge win for a first-term administration to put its collective back into a hugely important set of projects that will transform this section of Boston for generations to come.
We hope Team Healey will rise to that challenge.