The Comm. Ave Facelift

by Geneve Lau

photography courtesy of Amanda Willis

As all remaining signs of spring and the past winter fade away in Boston, the approach of summer also brings the start of construction season.

Since last summer, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation implemented two extended windows of road closures on Commonwealth Avenue during summer months in an effort to restore the inner workings of the bridge, which was built in 1965 and has not been replaced since.

Last year, the bridge was closed from July 26 to August 16, and this summer, a similar window was implemented. Traditionally, bridge replacement projects of this magnitude would take at least four to five years to compete. As the bridge runs over the highly trafficked I-90, and carries the tracks of the MBTA Green B Line, an Accelerating Bridge Construction plan was implemented instead.

The Comm. Ave closures over the past two summers have had significant impacts on summer activities on BU’s campus, particularly, orientation. Past summers included more sessions during the latter part of July, but starting in 2017, only five sessions occurred before Comm. Ave was closed for the construction.

While the amount of new student orientation sessions can be cut to work around the construction windows, there are still many students who frequent campus during this time and cannot avoid this period of closure.

Some students staying on campus over the summer only stayed in one area. Paulo Pereira (CAS ’21) worked for BU’s Events and Conferences department over the summer, so he noted that the construction “had no effect on [his] commute.”

Other students, however, needed to leave campus more frequently. Layth Hert (CAS ’20) took classes while working as a Lindsay Fellow at the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse in the Seaport District during both Summer I and Summer II terms. “The construction of the BU Bridge made it more difficult for me to get to work in a timely matter,” he admitted.

While the Peter Pan buses, which transported commuters from Blandford Street to Babcock Street stops, did extend commute times, Hert emphasized, “I did not have to wait for a bus once on Blandford Street; they were parked and ready for departure.” He even noted that the rides were better than the train he would have normally taken.

Dominic Vidoli (CAS ’22) stayed on campus over the summer as a new member of the BU Men’s Hockey team. With his on-campus residential accommodations at a brownstone on Bay State Road, he mentioned, “I walk through the construction every day, so it changed the route I take.”

Ironically enough, the construction might have made it easier for pedestrians. “Honestly [the construction] made it a little more convenient for me because I didn’t have to deal with the car traffic while crossing streets,” Vidoli recalled. He even wished that the construction would continue longer, joking, “Having the free Peter Pan buses as a replacement to the T is super convenient.”

Another unexpected but pleasant surprise from the major construction project was new interactions amongst Boston citizens.

Sae Yoo (CFA ’21) noted a highlight of her experience. “I met some really, really amazing people that I normally wouldn’t have if not for the construction, like the police officers I ended up chatting with at bus stops,” she said. “I appreciate them so much!”

Hert also mentioned very positive experiences with the police officers in charge of directing traffic during the closure. “I want to give huge credits to the police that were involved in coordinating pedestrians and motor vehicles, always smiling and saying hello. It ended being a much better experience and environment than I would have thought,” he added.

All students agreed that after this second phase of construction in replacing the Comm. Ave bridge, traffic on BU’s campus will be improved and much safer for the many pedestrians during the school year.