The original Route 18/JFK Boulevard Rehabilitation Project was supposed to stretch from Elm Street to Cove Road, but was later split into two phases due to budgetary constraints.

The design plan of phase two, which spans from Walnut Street to Cove Road, was discussed Thursday night during a hearing at Gomes School.

The MassDOT Highway Division presented the design to South End neighborhood leaders and listened to their comments and concerns.

The goal is to re-connect residential neighborhoods on the west side of the highway to the working waterfront in the east.

One step is turning the current one-way Rivet Street off-ramp into a full three-way intersection. However, some residents don't believe the street can accommodate two lanes of traffic.

Department of Public Infrastructure Commissioner Ron Labelle says there's already two way traffic along most of Rivet Street, and narrow roads are something residents already have to deal with.

"Right now it's only one-way traffic coming off the highway for about 150-200 feet. When you get to South Second, it's two-way traffic again," Labelle said. "The city has a lot of narrow streets and that's something we all live with."

Other improvements associated with the project will include new traffic signals, a 10-foot wide multi-use pathway, a bike path and improved sidewalks along Route 18.

The $6.7 million project is expected to be fully designed by next summer, and construction should begin in 2017.