Close to 30 community members filled Curtis Hall Dec. 5 for a public meeting hosted by state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez with representatives from the state police and the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).
The meeting served as a follow-up to a May meeting and as a chance to discuss safety, maintenance and police enforcement changes to the Jamaicaway and Arborway during the past six months, as well as neighbors’ suggestions and concerns.
The two parkways serve as a link between the neighborhoods outside of Boston and downtown.
But some neighbors are concerned the combination of continued excessive speeding, deferred maintenance by DCR and an over-extended state police force have created dangerous conditions on the parkways and cut off safe access to local parks such as Arnold Arboretum.
“It’s like the Indy 500,” said JP resident Joan Doyle. “They [speeding, aggressive drivers] scream at you and give you the finger, and nobody listens… How can traffic be slowed down?”
“It’s become so dangerous we’ve actually lost the parkways and the parks,” said Michael Reiskind, JP resident and member of the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council and Jamaica Pond Association (JPA).
Six months ago a similar meeting was held. At that meeting residents expressed concerns about what they said contribute to the dangerous roadways such as a lack of snow/leaf removal, unsafe sidewalks, neglected trees, speeding and illegal parking.
The past six months</big
“This is a follow-up from the May meeting,” said Sánchez. “There has been a lot of engagement and things getting done.”
DCR Regional Director Karl Pastore produced a list of updates and changes in enforcement along the Jamaicaway and Arborway during the past six months. “There is still a lot to do,” he said.
Those updates included plans to deal with seasonal debris like snow, leaves and high grass. The DCR will outsource some of that work. For example, this winter MassHighway is responsible for the parkways and Centre Street during weather emergencies.
He said the DCR’s deadline for the removal of all leaves from the Jamaicaway and Arborway is today, Dec. 15.
Other improvements that have been made include day-to-day monitoring of the parkways; signal changes on Pond Street heading towards Jamaica Pond; work on and study of Francis Parkman Drive; tree planting; street sweeping; sidewalk and traffic planning; and engineering ideas and analysis.
Neighbors raised specific concerns about Prince Street, which intersects the Jamaicaway. “I have a hard time feeling safe crossing or driving the Jamaicaway,” said Myriam Diaz, a member of the Parks and Open Spaces Committee of the JPA. Diaz is also involved with Arborway traffic control plans.
Snow removal, icy crosswalks making it difficult to cross the street (Centre and Rambler streets), speeding at the entrance to the Casey Overpass and traffic on Centre Street were other voiced concerns.
“We need to do something to slow down traffic,” said Mike Halle, co-chair of the E-13 Traffic and Parking Committee.
The rotary at Centre and Walter streets “is a rotary from hell,” said Wayne Beitler, president of the Longfellow Neighborhood Association. He said he understands funding is an issue.
“We need sleeping policemen…speed bumps, or something that hasn’t been invented yet,” said Jake Hart, JP resident.
Hart then made reference to a 3- to 4-foot pole that would prohibit illegal left turns onto the Jamaicaway.
Neighbors also acknowledged improvement in the past six months. They praised the work as well as Sánchez for organizing the meeting.
“For the past six months, aesthetics on the Jamaicaway have been remarkable,” said John Iappini, JPA chair. “I have lived here for 24 years and there has never been such a trooper presence.”
But neighbors still say the roads could and need to be safer.
A safer Jamaicaway and Arborway
The Jamaicaway and Arborway are both state roads. State police officers from Troop H-4, the squad responsible for patrolling the Jamaicaway and Arborway, were also present at the meeting, as was their newly appointed Col. Mark Delaney, who has served on the state Police for over 30 years.
Troopers from Troop H provided an explanation of their Jamaicaway and Arborway patrol strategy, priority issues and shortcomings. They said they think they have a grasp on how to solve some problems and admitted they still do not know everything. The troopers also fielded questions from the audience.
“We want to help you and we want to listen to you,” said Delaney.
Troop H represents one of the state’s six troops that serve various Massachusetts regions. It has jurisdiction from Milton to Foxborough to the Boston metropolitan area, said Maj. Mike Concannon. There are five smaller squads that compose the H-Troop.
The H-4 unit is responsible for patrolling the entire Boston metro area, which includes the Jamaicaway and Arborway, but also areas such as the Riverway and Fenway. Such a large, busy urban area allows the Troop H staff to accommodate only one person on the desk and a few cars out in the area at a time.
“We could use more bodies, but we do the best with what we have,” said Concannon.
Aside from excessive speeding and aggressive driving, H-4 priorities are commercial vehicles, which are prohibited from driving on the parkways; illegal parking; the need for additional funding in the summer; and cars passing school buses.
In a 24-hour period, two patrols drive along the Jamaicaway and Arborway, he said. Extra enforcement is installed from Thursday through Sunday.
“The numbers do reflect that work,” said Concannon. There were 39 reported crashes last year, and only 37 so far this year.
Not all crashes get reported, the state police said. In 2005, there were only 614 moving violations compared to 920 this year.
He said H-4 has a community action team to send in response to hot spots. “When something pops up, we can mitigate it,” he said.
Concannon said an increase in the number of people being caught and ticketed does not necessarily mean that speeding has decreased and the road is safer.
“This is not a one-shot deal,” he said. “We plan to meet with you as often as we can. Hopefully, we can figure out how to make this better,” he said.
The Boston Police have concurrent jurisdiction along the Jamaicaway and Arborway. “If they see something, they will stop,” he said.
“It’s not about the statistics. It’s about the emotion…We’ve lost major assets,” said Reiskind. “That’s why we’re angry. We can’t keep answering maintenance issues.”
“Operationally, we are stumbling forward,” said Pastore. “But we’re making progress.”
Reiskind said he thinks public meetings among the state police, DCR and the community should continue.
“I agree,” said Sánchez.
Information regarding a future meeting has yet to be released.