State expects lane closures during proposed Prudential tunnel extension

Courtesy rendering of 1000 Boylston Street in Boston. Photo courtesy of Boston Business Journal.

BOSTON – This week, Massachusetts transportation officials reviewed the potential effects on traffic from a Prudential tunnel extension project tied to a proposed condominium and retail development known as 1000 Boylston Street. They also weighed whether to increase the length of an “air rights” lease.

A joint project of Weiner Ventures and Suffolk Construction Co., 1000 Boylston Street is divided into a so-called “air rights” development of four neighborhood parcels. Air rights developments use the space above a parcel and often involves a complicated approval process. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation owns parcel 15 of the project above the Massachusetts Turnpike and next to the Hynes Convention Center, which makes up 29.2 percent of the total land upon which the project will be constructed.

The 1000 Boylston project calls for 108 condo units and 45,500 square feet of retail and restaurant space on the first and second floors facing Dalton, Boylston and St. Cecilia streets, according to the Boston Planning & Development Agency, which approved the proposal in March 2018. Two stories of parking, above grade, would include 175 spaces.

One of the major components of the project is a required 900-foot extension of the Massachusetts Turnpike’s Prudential tunnel, according to Jonathan Gulliver, a MassDOT highway administrator who appeared before the transportation agency’s oversight board to discuss the extension.

“Adding on this length of the tunnel triggers a change in the compliance of the fire code,” Gulliver said. “The tunnel in its current state is code compliant, but every time you modify a tunnel, you have to take a look at it.”

Gulliver says he estimates about 16 months total of tunnel construction with periods of traffic impact. But he emphasized everything remains a proposal for now.

“We’re doing our best to understand exactly what our impacts are going to be,” Gulliver said. “There will be a period of overlap where the highway both inbound and outbound is impacted by about 25 percent of capacity by the blocked lanes.” 

After Gulliver’s presentation, MassDOT Chief Strategy Officer Scott Bosworthasked the board to approve negotiating for a doubling the proposed lease at 1000 Boylston St. from 99 years to 198. The entire Parcel 15 has a market value of $23 million, according to Bosworth. The board unanimously approved a two-page lease negotiation laying out further legal terms of the construction project.

The ongoing saga of air rights projects above the Turnpike dates back to September 2008, when the state authority overseeing the Turnpike at the time sought proposals.

This article was previously published in the Boston Business Journal.

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