Agreement reached on school bus traffic

October 26, 2012
By

JP SOUTH—While the new school bus traffic on Carolina Avenue serving the Mission Hill K-8 School is improving, officials will shut down three local streets in the afternoon to keep things safe and smooth for buses, it was announced at an Oct. 16 meeting at the school.

Neighbors who have criticized the surprise plan to put bus traffic on Carolina generally agreed to the street closures, as long as they and emergency vehicles can get preferential treatment when necessary. Sgt. Eric Krause, the community service officer at the local District E-13 Police Station, said that will not be a problem.

A police car will continue to block Carolina Avenue from non-bus vehicles on school days in 3 p.m. hour, when the buses pick kids up. In addition, street signs are being posted to block traffic from Lee and Verona streets, which flow into Carolina.

Some no-parking signs are going up on Carolina as well to make sure buses have room to make turns, but only in spots where parking is already illegal but unmarked, officials said.

State Rep. Liz Malia, who lives on Verona and Child streets, and City Councilor Matt O’Malley both opposed the use of Carolina for school buses. But they acknowledged at the meeting that the bus traffic is improving, student safety is the top priority, and compromise and communication are key.

The Mission Hill K-8 moved to a building between Child and Carolina this fall. The former Agassiz Elementary on the site previously used Child for the bus traffic. Boston Public Schools (BPS) officials have apologized for not telling the community before switching the bus traffic to Carolina. But they also did not notify residents of the police car shutting the street and the plans for other street closures.

One lingering issue is the impact of the street closure on emergency vehicle traffic on Carolina, which is a major cut-through street between Washington and South streets. Local police commander Capt. Paul Russell previously told the Gazette it is not a big issue because authorities know to avoid the cut-through, a point echoed by BPS and police officials at the meeting, who added that the school buses can always move out of the way.

But Malia and resident Mary Mulvey Jacobson said they wanted to hear more details about that, especially from Boston Fire Department officials, who were not present. BPS Chief Financial Officer John McDonough, who has led the bus traffic meetings, said BPS understands it has an “obligation” to come back to the community with details about that issue.

Residents who spot any problems with the school bus traffic can contact BPS Transportation Director Carl Allen, a JP resident, at 617-635-6055 or callen2@bostonpublicschools.org.