The state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) held an Oct. 14 community meeting on increasing mobility between Kelley Circle and Murray Circle with attendees expressing concerns over the lack of protection for bike lanes and the plan to add parking spots, among other issues.
The meeting was one of three that DCR has held on improving safety and access for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists to the parklands and parkways of the Emerald Necklace in Jamaica Plain.
The meetings are co-sponsored by the Emerald Necklace Conservancy and state Reps. Jeffrey Sanchez and Liz Malia and state Sens. Sonia Chang-Diaz and Michael Rush.
About 100 people attended the meeting, including Chang-Diaz, Malia and Sanchez. The meeting was held in the auditorium at Faulkner Hospital.
“None of this is engraved in stone,” Sanchez said in his opening remarks, and emphasized that there will be some time before any plans are actualized.
“What we talk about today isn’t going get done tomorrow,” he said.
Construction is not expected to start for the project until 2017.
Toole Design Group (TDG), the contractor hired by DCR for the project, presented feedback it had received from an earlier plan that was shown during a February community meeting.
That plan replaced traffic circles with “modern roundabouts,” which are similar to rotaries but provides four entrances and four exits. TDG maintains that roundabouts are the safest and most effective plan for the area since there are limited potential traffic conflicts at roundabouts.
The plan also reversed direction of the side carriageways, removed three traffic signals and implemented new raised pedestrian crossing opportunities and continuous separated bike facilities.
TDG reported that the feedback it heard from the community included concerns about speeding, incorporating protected bike lanes and a desire to create easier mobility for pedestrians and cyclists.
Concerns from the previous meeting also included tree preservation, reconnecting open space, reducing speeding, preserving easy neighborhood access and improving yielding at crosswalks.
TDG presented its updated concept—which kept much from the previous plan—that adds two lanes of parking to the side carriageways. Some people at the meeting felt that the parking was unnecessary and would cause more traffic in the area and limit green space and trees.
The representatives from TDG suggested that less lanes would encourage slower speeds and therefore increase safety.
“Speeding is often symptomatic of too much capacity,” said Patrick Baxter of TDG.
TDG also showed an idea for two 10-foot, double-directional bike lanes to be added to the side carriageways. The bike lanes would have a three-foot buffer of painted lines only, which raised some concerns from residents in attendance at the meeting.
One resident asked why TDG didn’t plan to have some sort of fixed barrier to protect bicyclists from traffic. TDG answered that the lack of a physical barrier would minimize destroying green space unnecessarily, while adding one would require much more maintenance for snow and ice. Many people were not happy with the response. One man called it “an obsolete answer from the City,” and emphasized that the bike lanes need to be separated by an object that keeps drivers out of it.
Other concerns from the community were that there are currently not enough speed limit signs and that traffic will use side streets as cut-throughs.
“Despite this plan having fewer lanes, there will be less travel time because drivers will be able to access the roundabout more efficiently,” Baxter responded.
To reduce speed, Baxter said that the project could change the slant of the ground in the roundabout. He also mentioned that roundabouts are safer for pedestrians and bicyclists because they don’t involve traffic lights, and instead use yield signs.
“Nobody accelerates towards a roundabout,” Baxter said. He reasoned that drivers tend to speed up towards traffic lights to catch the yellow signal.
Martin Thompson, resident of Prince Street and a member of the Jamaica Pond Association, said in the discussion part of the meeting that he “applauds the DCR for this extremely creative solution to a dangerous roadway which had been a thorn in the neighborhood’s side.”
DCR presented plans to address mobility issues on Centre Street between Murray Circle and the VFW Parkway during an Oct. 7 community meeting, according to a presentation posted on DCR website. DCR had identified missing links in bike lanes and reported crash data in their presentation, and recommended traffic signal improvement, flashing beacons and additional pedestrian crosswalks at most major intersections in that study area.
For more information on the DCR meetings, visit 1.usa.gov/1VBBGi0.