Arborway bike plan includes major rotary redesigns

February 27, 2015
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A proposed bicycle-oriented redesign of the Arborway between Murray and Kelley Circles would replace the historic rotaries with modern roundabouts.

Created and advertised as a plan to create and improve bicycle facilities on the Arborway, the plan would replace Murray Circle with two smaller, modern roundabouts, replace Kelley Circle with one roundabout, and redirect regional traffic to the Arborway’s central lanes in order to turn the side carriageways into one-way local-traffic roads and bike lanes.

Two “early idea” meetings were held the first week of February, advertised as for “bicycle facilities,” which presented speeding and accident information and proposed the new design.

“The project was scoped out as bike facilities design project. It became very clear during the discovery phase of the process that changes would have to be made to the parkway to accommodate safe, continuous bike facilities from Jamaica Pond to the Casey/Arborway project,” state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Press Secretary William Hickey told the Gazette last week.

The plan presented by Toole Design Group would create bike lanes separated from traffic by concrete barriers. It would also create safe pedestrian and bicycle crossings at both rotaries, in part by reducing on-street parking on the Arborway.

“The design changes being proposed and their potential impacts are much greater than the meeting name implies,” resident Allan Ihrer said in a West Roxbury Courthouse Neighborhood Association newsletter sent out last week. “Proposed changes will impact vehicular access to abutting neighborhoods, the flow of traffic within those neighborhoods, the larger regional flow of traffic thru the area, and on-street parking…These changes may impact your and your neighbors’ lives, and conceivably property values.”

“When I went to the…meeting, I had to pick my chin up off the floor. It’s so shockingly innovative. Why didn’t anyone think of this before?” Arborway resident and Arborway Coalition member Sarah Freeman told the Gazette last week. “It sounds like DCR is taking this seriously and hopefully this time they’ll come up with something they can implement.”

According to the presentation, the design team is also proposing removing almost all traffic lights, which would be redundant in the new design.

Modern roundabouts differ from the historic rotaries in scale and navigability: roundabouts are smaller, with more traffic calming and safety measures like mountable rings around islands and raised pedestrian crossings.

According to the meeting presentation on DCR’s website, 135 accidents have happened in the area between 2008 and 2012, due in part to consistent speeding in the area.

The redesigned roundabouts would force traffic to slow down in order to navigate narrower lanes and raised pedestrian crossings.

According to Hickey, the design has been already funded for $250,000 out of DCR’s capital budget. Construction funds, however, have not yet been allocated, as construction wouldn’t be able to begin until the completion of the Casey Arborway project, which is expected to be in the second half of 2016.

DCR will be requesting construction funds through its annual capital planning process, Hickey said.

“As part of our annual capital planning process, it will be put into the queue with other parkway projects and prioritized,” Hickey said.

Replacing the two large rotaries with modern roundabouts was first proposed in the 2004 Arborway Master Plan.

DCR will be hosting another public meeting “once the design of the preferred alternative is further developed and refined,” Hickey said.

Murray and Kelley circles were not part of Olmsted’s original design, but were instead added to accommodate vehicular traffic starting in the 1930s.

March 6 is the deadline for public comment. DCR meeting presentations, including maps and design plans, are available at bit.ly/DCRarborwaybikeplan2015.

  • ScottRAB

    Modern roundabouts are the safest form of intersection in the world. Visit http://tinyurl.com/iihsRAB for modern roundabout FAQs and safety facts. Modern roundabouts, and the pedestrian refuge islands approaching them, are two of nine proven safety measures identified by the FHWA, http://tinyurl.com/7qvsaem

    The FHWA has a video about modern roundabouts that is mostly accurate (http://tinyurl.com/6v44a3x).

  • Clay Harper

    The traffic calming from raised-table crosswalks throughout the corridor – including at two locations on the Upper Arborway – coupled with other vehicle speed-dampening features like smaller diameter roundabouts could go a long way towards making this dangerous area safe for bikes, pedestrians and cars. And it seems to me the design could easily have a positive effect on property values.

    At the meetings I was struck by two notions not covered here: the DCR’s proclamation that “A parkway is not a road. It’s a park with a road in it” and Toole Design’s assertion that “commuters transiting your neighborhood should do so on your terms, not theirs.” Certainly food for thought as the planning process continues.

  • Charlie

    This plan is very innovative and will really make everyone’s lives better. The people who live adjacent to the Arborway will have calm carriage lanes adjacent to their homes with local traffic only. Pedestrians and bicyclists will have safer, more comfortable spaces to travel. Through-traveling motorists will have a clearer, safer, and more efficient roadway network, rather than the confusing, dangerous signalized rotaries we have today. DCR should be commended for this plan. It’s a real 180 degree turn for them that’s been needed for years.

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