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Cummins Highway

Our goal is to improve safety and access for every resident of Mattapan.

Public Works will reconstruct Cummins Highway from River Street to the intersection of Harvard Street and Wood Avenue.

With the help of the community, we will explore ways to improve the streetscape. We want to create a design that is safe, convenient, and comfortable for everyone.

THE FULL RECONSTRUCTION PROJECT WILL include:
  • New, accessible sidewalks
  • Safer crosswalks
  • Installation of new street lights
  • New street trees
  • Rebuilt road
  • Addition of better bike lanes

The temporary redesign (2020 to 2021)

From summer 2020 to fall 2021, we tested a design concept on Cummins Highway between Wood Avenue and River Street.

The temporary redesign of Cummins Highway helped us understand what worked and what didn't.  After a full year of trying it out, we were able to evaluate the impacts of a two-lane design on traffic capacity and travel times. Traffic volumes remained consistent with pre-pandemic levels. However, drivers travelled at much safer speeds than they had before the temporary design was installed. 

A bar chart shows traffic volumes on Cummins Highway east of Savannah. Data were collected on two consecutive days in October 2018, August 2020, September 2020, December 2020, May 2021, June 2021, and September 2021. In October 2018, the daily volume of vehicles was 17778 and 18472. Over the following collection periods, it was usually between 15000 and 16000 each day.
A bar chart shows percentage of drivers traveling at or above 35 mph on Cummins Highway east of Savannah. Data were collected on two consecutive days in October 2018, August 2020, September 2020, December 2020, May 2021, June 2021, and September 2021. In October 2018, the percentage of drivers traveling at or above 35 mph was 34.6 on the first day and 39.2 on the second day. Once the trial was installed (before August 2020), the percentage of drivers traveling at those speeds decreased significantly.

However, a pilot project did not provide all of the safety benefits we need for this corridor. For example, sidewalk condition and accessibility for persons with disabilities could not be addressed, nor could concerns about poor lighting.

Further, we learned that we must remove the center-running median. The median hindered safe passing of stopped vehicles, such as trash trucks, and raised concerns about impact on response time for our EMS and fire departments.

We gathered a lot of information from residents about what worked and what didn’t during the temporary redesign. The final design will address concerns the community have voiced, including removing the median for safe passing.

We aim to build a street where traffic can flow, but is also safe for people with disabilities, youth, and elders.

The City will rebuild Cummins Highway. You will have new sidewalks, raised crosswalks, on-street parking next to a curb, and safe bike lanes. We will have one lane in each direction and additional lanes at key intersections. We will install better street lighting, plant more street trees, and more -- with your guidance!

You will have multiple opportunities over the coming months to shape the final design. Please join our series of community conversations. Each conversation is focused on a single topic. We will share how City policies and plans inform our work. We listen to your ideas and questions. We also offer one-on-one phone calls or virtual meetings to discuss the project. You can make an appointment online or call 617-635-4966.

Safety on Cummins Highway

We began this project in spring 2019. Over the series of meetings we hosted in 2019 and 2020, residents of Mattapan and nearby neighborhoods shared a clear priority with us: a reconstruction project must address safety along the corridor. The clear community-based goal to improve safety corresponds with the data we have collected about Cummins Highway. 

Cummins Highway was identified as a high-crash corridor based on the volume of injury-causing crashes that occurred in 2015, 2016, and 2017. It is among the most crash-prone corridors Citywide.

On Cummins Highway, drivers regularly reached 40 mph despite the 25 mph speed limit.

Vehicle speed is directly related to the severity of a crash. At 40 mph, a pedestrian has an 80% likelihood of death. The likelihood of serious injury or death is nearly 50% when hit by a driver traveling 30 mph. Elders, youth, and people with disabilities are even more likely to be seriously hurt or killed in a car crash.

In October 2018, more than two-thirds of all drivers on Cummins Highway exceeded 35 mph. This speeding was rampant all day: between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., two in three drivers traveled at 30 mph or faster. Speeding rates significantly increased in the evening and early morning hours. We refer to people who drive more than 10 mph over the speed limit as "high-end speeders."

Our goal with the temporary redesign is to create a safer street for residents now, while we continue to work on a longer-term complete reconstruction. Though overall traffic in 2021 is between 13% and 16% lower than October 2018, high-end speeders are down significantly. This is a much safer environment for people in the neighborhood who are walking or driving. 

Graphic shows that people are 17% likely to be killed or seriously injured by a car traveling 20 mph; 30% likely if the car is driven at 25 mph; and 47% likely if the driver is going 30 mph.

We have data from:

  • October 2018 (pre-pandemic)
  • August, September, and December 2020, and
  • May and June 2021.

You can read about how we collect data and what we found when we compared the data from 2018 to the data from 2020. You can also download spreadsheets of the original data files.

Speeding on Cummins: August 2018 through December 2020

Speed Data Spreadsheets

Air quality and Cummins Highway

The Environment Department helps Boston become more sustainable, resilient, and healthier city now and for future generations. Our colleagues helped us understand how transportation impacts air quality in Boston. 

Suffolk County, where we are, has the highest concentration of pollution from on-road vehicles. It is 88% above the state average. Air pollution disproportionately burdens:

  • people of color
  • individuals with lower educational attainment, and
  • households with an annual income of less than $20,000.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from transportation account for about 30% of Boston’s total emissions. Around 65% of that comes from passenger vehicles. Tire wear, brake wear, and road abrasion cause about 85% of fine, inhalable particulate matter in the air. This particulate matter can:

  • exacerbate lung and heart ailments
  • cause asthma attacks or lung cancer, and
  • lead to both increased hospitalizations and mortality from cardiovascular diseases.

Traffic on “arterial” streets, like Cummins Highway, can cause similar levels of noise and air pollution to major freeways — or even greater levels depending on traffic conditions. Our reconstruction project is an important opportunity to improve air quality for Mattapan residents and others who use the corridor. We can improve air quality through vegetation and expanding access to active transportation. We can take advantage of technology improvements to buy lower-cost sensors to measure air quality.

On July 21, 2021, we co-hosted a virtual meeting to discuss the ways transportation policies and design influence air quality. We noted potential design changes possible with the Cummins Highway reconstruction project.

Watch the meeting (English)

Download the presentation (English)

Download the Presentation (Haitian-Creole)

Download the Presentation (Spanish)

Heat resilience and Cummins Highway

As part of Climate Ready Boston, the City is developing citywide solutions to:

  • reduce urban heat and heat risk, and
  • prepare for the long-term impacts.

Your experience of heat is more than just the weather. It is influenced by your own personal characteristics, such as age, as well as how the City is designed around you. Past policies and practices influence how you experience heat today. The end of Boston's streetcar system, transportation design manuals, and funding choices all increase heat vulnerability in Mattapan today.

Limiting reliable transportation choices means more people must drive everywhere. More traffic brings heat from tires, brakes, and exhaust pipes. One mile traveled by a personal vehicle creates as much heat as a 1500-watt space heater running for 70 minutes. Wide roads and paved areas with less tree canopy heat up during the day. That heat is stored in the neighborhood overnight in paved areas. This makes it hard to cool down and heat waves are even worse.

Through the Cummins Highway reconstruction project, we can incorporate design features that mitigate heat. This could include planting areas, trees, cooling public art, and more.

On July 8, 2021, we hosted a virtual meeting to share information about the City's heat resilience study. We also discussed opportunities to address heat through the Cummins Highway Reconstruction project.

Watch a recording (English)

Download the presentation (English / Spanish)

Download the presentation (Haitian Creole)

Land use and transportation planning

The Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) works with people and communities across all neighborhoods of Boston to plan and build the future of the City. The planning department specifically works with the community to create long-term visions for places. PLAN: Mattapan is a neighborhood-wide planning initiative. The plan will strengthen the existing culture and stability of the community by:

  • supporting affordable housing
  • creating opportunities for businesses to thrive, and
  • enhancing connections to improve the neighborhood's experience accessing jobs and spaces where people gather.

PLAN: Mattapan has goals for housing, culture, environment, businesses, and mobility. Drawing from community members' comments and from Go Boston 2030, the planning team is working to increase access to high-quality travel options for Mattapan residents. The goals is for residents to safely and reliably connect to destinations within Mattapan and the rest of the City.

They worked with the community to identify "nodes," or places where commercial, retail, and residential uses are located. Nodes provide opportunities for people to gather and create a destination for the neighborhood. PLAN: Mattapan will identify corridors, routes, and other projects to improve access to these nodes — by bus, train, walking, biking, or driving.

The Cummins Highway Redesign is one opportunity to implement the values of PLAN: Mattapan, as communicated by residents and the goals of previous planning efforts.

On August 17, 2021, we hosted a virtual conversation with the BPDA. They talked about their work and how we collaborate. They also provided information about transportation planning that is part of PLAN: Mattapan.

Watch the meeting (English)

Download the presentation (English)

Download the Presentation (Haitian Creole)

Download the Presentation (Spanish)

Public Health and Cummins Highway

The design of our neighborhoods and streets shapes our health and well-being. It is one of many "social determinants of health." Health inequities are not caused by personal choices or behaviors, nor by a single person or policy. They are caused by a system of inequitable policies and practices that impact communities over time.

As a City, our goal is to support and create neighborhoods that promote health and safety. We do so by:

  • Using a "Health in All Policies" approach. We work to integrate health into all types of city policies and practices. We identify how the positively or negatively impact health. We think about who benefits and at what cost. And, we work to reverse inequitable policies and practices.
  • We design physical spaces that make it easy to make healthy choices. For example, if you have good sidewalks and live near a park, it is easy to go for a walk.
  • We change our status-quo mindset of "we've always done it this way." We consider how the City has changed. We consider who benefits from the status quo and who doesn't. Then, we consider changing the way we do things.

We want to address health inequities caused by transportation plans and policies. To do so, we must intentionally change the way we design streets. Our streets are a building block for healthy people and healthy communities.

In Boston, we use a Complete Streets approach. This means that we considers the needs of many types of activities and users of a street. We design to make streets safer for everyone and easier to walk, to bicycle, and to take the bus. Complete Streets is one tool to address long-term health inequities.

We hosted a public meeting on Tuesday, October 5. We were joined by Mary Bovenzi, Director of the Chronic Disease Prevention and Control Division at Boston Public Health Commission.

Watch the meeting

Download the presentation (English)

Download the presentation (Spanish)

Download the presentation (Haitian Creole)

Design Elements

We plan to reconstruct Cummins Highway. You can shape the final design!

We are hosting a series of conversations about different design topics. We hear about your ideas, preferences, and questions. Each conversation informs how we shape the final design plans for Cummins Highway. 

Some of the elements we're discussing include:

  • Street lighting
  • Stormwater infrastructure
  • Trees
  • Bus stops

Street lighting

You've told us that street lighting on Cummins Highway needs to be better. The street is too dark at night, especially on the sidewalks. Also, the overhead wires are unattractive.

The street lights you see today were first installed by Eversource. When they built these lights, they used standards written 50 years earlier. Overhead wires power these lights, so they are not as reliable or attractive as they could be.

The City took over the care and ownership of these street lights in 2002. We can upgrade the street lights on Cummins Highway as part of the reconstruction project. We will add more street lights to eliminate dangerous dark spots. New lights will be LEDs and focused downward, toward the road, rather than into the sky.

We propose using pendant lights, which is our standard for major corridors in the City of Boston. We can add smaller pendant lights to better illuminate the sidewalk. You can see pendant lights in Upham's Corner and along Commonwealth Avenue in Allston. We are currently installing them on Neponset Avenue and in Nubian Square.

Want to learn more about street lighting? We hosted a meeting on September 21, 2021.

Watch the meeting (English)

Download the presentation (English)

Download the presentation (Spanish)

A pendant-style street light has one large, down-facing light hang approximately 4' over the roadway. A second, smaller pendant-style light  is on the same pole, but directed over the sidewalk.
Pendant-style street light installed in Nubian Square.

Tell us what you think about this style of lighting

stormwater and green Infrastructure

On Boston's streets and parking lots, rainwater and melting snow cannot soak into the soil. Instead, it drains into the city's stormwater system. As it runs through parking lots and along wide streets, the rainwater picks up pollutants and carries them into the system.

We anticipate more severe weather events in the future, due to climate change. Along Cummins Highway, we may see increased risk of flooding from heavier rain and snow storms. This extra water will put even more pressure on our stormwater system.

We can better manage this stormwater—and reduce pollution—by changing how we design streets. We can build "green infrastructure" absorbs, stores, and manages stormwater in a way that mimics nature. We can use gardens and planted landscaping to do this. We can also use tools like permeable pavers.

We are exploring the potential to include landscaping ("rain gardens") to help manage stormwater as part of the Cummins Highway reconstruction. 

On October 19, 2021, Dave Queeley from Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation talked with us about green infrastructure. He talked about why green infrastructure is important and showed examples from the Codman Square area. He also shared information on the jobs training program he manages.

Watch the MEETING (English)

 DOWNLOAD the presentation (English)

DOWNLOAD the presentation (Spanish)

DOWNLOAD the presentation (Haitian Creole)

Share Your Thoughts

As we plan the final design for Cummins Highway, we want to hear your thoughts and ideas. 

Talk to the project team

You can talk with someone on the project team, one-on-one. We have virtual office hours every other Wednesday from 3 - 7 p.m. You can call or use video chat.

Sign up for an appointment

Want to submit comments by mail?

If you would like to submit comments via mail, you can download the survey in English, Haitian Creole, or Spanish.

Share Comments Online

You can submit any comments or questions you have regarding the temporary design trial on Cummins Highway through our online survey. The survey is available in:

See What Your Neighbors Have Said

We have been collecting feedback from residents. These comments influenced changes to the temporary redesign and will inform our final design plans. You can read what your neighbors have shared with us:

Previous Meetings and Updates

Past meetings

We hosted regular community conversations to refine the design for Cummins Highway.

July 2021

On July 8, 2021, we hosted a virtual meeting to share information about the City's heat resilience study. We also discussed opportunities to address heat through the Cummins Highway Reconstruction project.

On July 21, 2021, we co-hosted a virtual meeting to discuss the ways transportation policies and design influence air quality. We noted potential design changes possible with the Cummins Highway reconstruction project.

August 2021

On August 17, 2021, we hosted a virtual conversation with the BPDA to discuss land-use planning. They talked about their work and how we collaborate. They also provided information about transportation planning that is part of PLAN: Mattapan.

September 2021

We hosted a meeting on September 21, 2021, to learn about the City's street lighting team. We discussed the type of street lights we plan to use when we rebuild Cummins Highway.

October 2021

We hosted a public meeting on Tuesday, October 5, 2021, to talk about public health and transportation. We were joined by Mary Bovenzi, Director of the Chronic Disease Prevention and Control Division at Boston Public Health Commission.

On October 19, 2021, Dave Queeley from Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation talked with us about green infrastructure. He talked about why green infrastructure is important and showed examples from the Codman Square area. He also shared information on the jobs training program he manages.

January 2022

On January 25, 2022, we talked about accessible bus stops. We discussed where bus stops would be placed on Cummins Highway once the street is reconstructed. We also talked about how we ensure every bus stop is accessible to people with physical disabilities. We gave an update about the potential for bus shelters and real-time arrival information.

February 2022

 On February 23, 2022, we talked about the Urban Forest Plan and street trees across the City. We discussed how we are designing Cummins Highway for new street trees and protecting existing trees in good health. You can explore information about existing trees on Cummins Highway.

March 2022

On March 29, 2022, we discussed how the City of Boston designs intersections across the City. Every intersection must serve different needs: people crossing on foot or in a wheelchair, drivers turning left or right, people continuing through the intersection, and cross-traffic, to name a few. We shared our initial design plans for intersections on Cummins Highway. We talked about some of the ways we are working to balance competing needs at intersections.

April 2022

At this public meeting, staff from the City's Age Strong Commission joined the Public Works Department to discuss the upcoming reconstruction of Cummins Highway. We learned about “Age-Friendly Boston” and discussed street design strategies that support people as they get older. We talked about specific aspects of the Cummins Highway reconstruction project that incorporate age-friendly street design.

Watch the meeting (English)

Watch the meeting (Spanish)

Watch the meeting (Haitian-Creole)

Download the presentation (English)

Download the presentation (Spanish)

Download the presentation (Haitian Creole)

 

The temporary redesign was installed to slow speeding drivers and to improve safety. It also creates additional space for physical activity and better connections to open space and parks. You can learn more about the temporary redesign below.

In October 2020, the trial was extended to American Legion. In response to the feedback we received from the community, the orange barriers were replaced with flex-posts and pavement markings. These changes improved visibility for everyone. We will continue to monitor traffic, gather data, and collect feedback to evaluate this new phase. 


You can watch a virtual presentation of the Cummins Design Trial (Phase 2). You will be able to hear from Jeffrey Alexis as he provides a project summary. You'll also hear about the results of the first trial and the changes as we move into Phase 2.

Two men hold a board while two others stand in front of them. They are talking about changes to Cummins Highway

Thank you to all who came to talk to us at the Mattapan Farmer's Market about the continuation of the Cummins Design Trial and the updates for phase 2.

We provided a handout that you can download about the project.

View the presentation

The first phase of the Cummins Design Trial was created to simulate the preferred design. Our goal was to improve safety along the corridor in response to COVID-19. The temporary trial extended from Fairway Street to the intersection of Wood Ave/Harvard Street. We used orange barriers to introduce protected bike lanes. We continued to maintain on-street parking and provide turn lanes at intersections. 

We monitored the traffic, gathered data, and collected feedback during the trial to evaluate the results. For more information, you can view the presentations below: 


The first phase of the temporary design trial was part of Healthy Streets Boston. Click the image to watch a short-explainer about the trial and how it happened.


Click the image to view a project update recorded on July 2020 about the first phase of the design trial.

On Thursday, February 27, 2020, we held the third public meeting at Mattahunt Community Center. We continued the discussion of potential improvements for Cummins Highway. 

You can review and download the materials shared during the meeting.

On Tuesday, October 29, 2019, we held the second public meeting at Mattahunt Community Center. We continued the discussion of potential improvements for Cummins Highway. 

You can review and download the materials shared during the meeting.

On Thursday, April 11, 2019, we held the first public meeting at Mattahunt Community Center. We discussed potential improvements for Cummins Highway. 

You can review and download the materials shared during the meeting.

Map of area

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