J-Way could get new traffic light

August 28, 2008
By

JOHN RUCH

PONDSIDE—A dangerous intersection on the Jamaicaway—where pedestrians often cross illegally—could get a new traffic signal if Gov. Deval Patrick gives it the green light.

The traffic signal would go where Eliot Street meets the Jamaicaway and Pond Street along Jamaica Pond Park. State Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez secured a $750,000 authorization for the signal in the new state Environmental Bond Bill.

Adding a signal at that intersection was among several roadway changes proposed by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) in a 2006 planning process.

Sánchez regularly holds community meetings about the condition of the state-owned parkways in Jamaica Plain: the Jamaicaway, the Arborway and the section of Centre Street alongside Arnold Arboretum.

“The one issue that has been most agreed upon and that we have continually heard from constituents [about] is that this intersection is a public safety hazard for pedestrians and motorists alike,” Sanchez said in a press statement.

“I think we’ve been pretty lucky” that no one has been killed there in recent years, Sánchez told the Gazette.

The Gazette has observed two car accidents at the intersection in the past year and many more near-misses. In general, the intersection is confusing, poorly marked and heavily used.

Pedestrians and bicyclists regularly cross the four-lane Jamaicaway at the intersection to get to and from Jamaica Pond. That is illegal. The Gazette regularly observes pedestrians—some with baby strollers—crossing in front of oncoming cars.

Pedestrians keep doing it because it is a natural, direct crossing spot. To find a legal crossing, pedestrians have to walk at least 1,000 feet in either direction on the Jamaicaway—either to Pond Street, or by making a complicated loop around the rotary at the Jamaicaway/Arborway intersection. There are no signs indicating those options anyway.

Traffic coming from the rotary enters the intersection at an angle. Cars must quickly straighten out in the intersection, while cars merge into the flow from Pond Street. Eliot Street is one-way heading away from the intersection, but the Gazette has observed nearby residents casually driving the wrong way to get onto the Jamaicaway.

Cars coming from the rotary are often speeding, with those in the outer lane sometimes shifting partly into the inner lane to make the curve. There are no painted lines to show where the side of the road is. Cars coming from the rotary head directly at the Jamaicaway sidewalk right before they straighten out. There is no guardrail, and the sidewalk there has no curb due to a wide wheelchair ramp. There is also no crosswalk across Eliot Street.

A traffic light with a pedestrian crossing would seem to solve most of these problems. But would it really cost $750,000?

“I think it’s more. I think it’s a million,” Sánchez said, explaining that new infrastructure on the parkway is expensive.

The traffic signal is now on a long list of projects the governor can choose to fund by issuing publicly traded bonds. Those bonds eventually would have to paid back, with interest, by the state.

The governor likely will not fund every project authorized in the Environmental Bond Bill, so political advocacy can make a difference. Sánchez said that if residents like the traffic signal idea, they can voice their opinions to the Governor’s Office, DCR or even the Boston Parks and Recreation Department.