DCR called out for slow action on parkway project

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation Department (DCR) is being called out for the slow action on the parkway improvement project.

Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council chair Kevin Moloney said a recent meeting about the project with DCR Commissioner Leo Roy went “from disappointing to frustrating,” while local state Rep. Jeffrey Sanchez said the whole process has been “brutal.” Both Moloney and Sanchez noted that the roadways are dangerous to bicycles and pedestrians and need to be upgraded.

DCR said in a statement that it was “pleased” to meet with JPNC to provide updates on the project and “looks forward to continued dialogue” with local officials and residents as the project progresses.

The parkway improvement project focuses on three different areas: Perkins Street and Francis Parkman Drive intersection; Centre Street, from VFW Parkway to Murray Circle; and the Arborway between Eliot Street and South Street, including Kelley Circle and Murray Circle.

DCR initially held a community meeting on the Parkman Drive and Perkins Street improvement during the summer of 2013. At that time, officials said that the project could be done within two year. One part of that project is a crosswalk for residents from Cabot Estate to have access to Jamaica Pond, which they have been advocating for since at least 1997.

DCR held a series of meetings on the full project in the fall of 2015. The meetings were co-sponsored by the Emerald Necklace Conservancy and state Reps. Jeffrey Sanchez and Liz Malia and state Sens. Sonia Chang-Diaz and Michael Rush.

The Gazette spoke with Sanchez about the parkway project during a recent community meeting he hosted.

“I’ve been working on it for a long time, and no commitments for any improvements have been made by DCR. The process has been brutal,” he said.

Sanchez said it is important to increase pedestrian and bicycle safety on the parkway. He said that “it’s a major thoroughfare” and “I’m wondering if the [state Department of Transportation] should maintain it.”

Roy met with Moloney, Michael Reiskind of JPNC, and several local elected officials and aides on March 8. Moloney said that the only positive to come from the meeting was that Roy committed for construction to start on the Parkman/Perkins project this summer and that “all else was bad news.”

But, added Moloney, the Parkman/Perkins project still needs to be reviewed by the Boston Landmarks Commission, which also requires the Boston Parks and Recreation Department to “sign off” on it. As part of that process, BPRD will host a community meeting. Moloney said that all of that should have been done “a long time ago.”

Moloney said that Roy called the Kelley to Murray circles project “complicated” and that DCR was looking for “another design solution.”As to Centre Street project, Moloney said the commissioner “didn’t know anything about that.”

“It was pretty depressing,” he said.

Moloney said he didn’t want to “poor-mouth” DCR, as the department might not be “funded as well as it should be,” but action needed to be taken to improve the safety situation on the parkway.

When asked to comment, DCR spokesperson Troy Wall released the following statement, “The Department of Conservation and Recreation was pleased to provide the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council with updates regarding roadway improvement projects within Jamaica Plain, and looks forward to continued dialogue with the public, state and local officials, advocacy groups, and other relevant stakeholders as the projects progress.”

The statement also said that Roy provided the following updates during the March 8 meeting:

  • – Boston Parks has requested an additional public briefing regarding pathway changes and improvements to the intersection of Perkins Street and Parkman Drive, delaying the DCR’s ability to reach 100 percent design completion phase and present it before the Boston Landmarks Commission and Boston Conservation Commission. Commissioner Roy is staying in close contact with Boston Parks leadership to ensure this project continues to progress as closely as possible to the original schedule.
  • – The DCR’s design contractor for improvements to the Arborway is currently working on the project’s 25 percent submittal for the agency’s review, which will lay out a design concept and criteria for improvements. As part of this process, the DCR is working with its consultant to address significant issues related to pedestrian and bicyclist safety, which have contributed to the complexity of this long-term project.
  • – Commissioner Roy credited State Representative Jeffrey Sanchez for his level of involvement in moving these projects along through previous meetings and receiving regular project updates.

Wall said since the meeting, DCR has received a draft design from the consultant for short-term improvements on Centre Street that include pedestrian crossings, pavement markings, and traffic signal systems. He said that DCR is reviewing the draft and the department anticipates completing those improvements during the summer.

Emily Resnevic contributed to this article.

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