The Jamaica Pond Association (JPA) and the Jamaica Hills Association (JHA) held a joint hybrid meeting (live and via Zoom) on Monday, July 10, that was described by JPA chair Kay Mathew as a “community conversation” regarding Mass. DCR’s controversial plan to redesign the Jamaicaway and Arborway between Kelly Circle and Murray Circle.
The DCR initially presented four alternative plans for the redesign of the roadway and, after public input, settled on the so-called Alternative 4 plan, which calls for the elimination of the rotaries at the circles to be replaced with signalized intersections and crosswalks.
Members of the JPA and the JHA, both of which are comprised primarily of long-time residents, have voted in favor of the Alternative 1 proposal, which would maintain the present rotaries.
However, the Boston Cyclists Union has endorsed most of Alternative 4 (along with suggestions for portions of Alternatives 2 and 3) and some experts in the field of traffic engineering also have endorsed Alternative 4.
Sensing the need to hear from all members of the JP community, the JPA and JHA widely advertised the “community conversation” in order to receive input from their fellow residents.
“A number of our neighbors were not aware of the planning process,” said Mathew. “We did community outreach through flyers and door-knocking.” Matthew explained that the DCR’s planning process has been ongoing for a number of years and last year the JPA voted to support so-called Alternative 1, which preserves the current system of rotary circles.
JPA member Franklyn Salimbene agreed that there is no “perfect solution” to reconfiguring the present roadway system, but suggested that the DCR’s preferred Alternative 4 will present a large number of negative effects for residents of Jamaica Plain.
Salimbene asserted that Alternative 4 will destroy eight mature trees; create two large, signalized intersections; create a six-lane highway at Murray Circle and a five-lane highway at Kelly; and encourage motor vehicle operators to speed up to make the lights at Murray and Kelly, whereas the current rotaries slow down traffic.
He also noted other drawbacks to Alternative 4: Traffic will be backed up at the lights all day, which raises the problem of exhaust fumes from idling vehicles, especially at rush hour; it will not alleviate Forest Hills-bound traffic backing up at Murray Circle; it will make access to the Pondside neighborhood difficult for residents; and it will encourage cut-through traffic on May St. to get to and from the Faulkner Hospital, as well as potentially encourage motorists to use other side streets as cut-throughs .
On the other hand, said Salimbene, “Alternative 1 will provide a level of safety for all roadway users, limit the use of carriageways, and maintain a sense of proportion. The Arborway is a parkway, not a highway — but the DCR wants to build a highway.”
However, after Salimbene’s presentation, the majority of residents in attendance — primarily parents with young children — spoke up in support of DCR’s preference for Alternative 4. They said they favored the elimination of the rotaries, which will provide for more safety for bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists.
One resident, who lives near one of the traffic circles, said that accidents are commonplace, while others noted that trying to traverse the present rotaries is a dangerous undertaking for pedestrians and bicyclists. In addition, it was noted that the traffic lights will be “smart lights” that will adjust to traffic to prevent the sort of back-ups mentioned by Salimbene.
“Everyone was very nice to each other and very articulate. I think this was a successful meeting,” said Mathew at the conclusion of the hour-long discussion.
An officer from District 13 of the Boston Police Department presented the Community Safety Report. The officer noted that the most significant criminal activity in the area involves what is known as “check-washing.” The officer noted that check washing is a growing problem in which a criminal will steal mail — often from a USPS mailbox (because criminals have keys to mailboxes) — with a check in it, such as payment for a utility bill.
The criminal literally “washes” the handwriting on the check itself with a special chemical and then will rewrite the check made out to the criminal, often in a larger amount. The officer said the only way to avoid becoming a victim is to bring any mail that contains a check directly to the Post Office.
Also on hand for the meeting was Michael Giordano from the office of newly-elected State Rep. William MacGregor, who was elected six weeks ago to succeed former State Rep. Edward Coppinger, who took a job in the private sector. Giordano provided an overview of the legislation that MacGregor is focusing upon.