DCR to hold meetings on parks and parkways; unknowns abound

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) will hold a series of meetings on improving safety and access for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists to the parklands and parkways of the Emerald Necklace in Jamaica Plain, but more unknowns than knowns surround the effort.

It is unclear how past efforts factor into the current endeavor, and whether or not there is a budget for any improvements and what the timeframe might be for them.

The meetings, with the first one on Oct. 1, will focus on three different sections: Perkins Street and Parkman Drive; Centre Street from the VFW Parkway to Murray Circle; and the Arborway between Eliot Street and South Street, including Kelley Circle and Murray Circle. (See Agenda for more details.)

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.

“The Department of Conservation and Recreation looks forward to our upcoming series of public meetings with members of the Jamaica Plain community regarding multi-modal upgrades to the Emerald Necklace and surrounding parkways,” said DCR spokesman Troy Wall in an email. “During these meetings, DCR will provide a status update of the projects, present design proposals and solicit input from the public.”

Improved access to Jamaica Pond at the intersection of Perkins Street and Francis Parkman Drive has long been in the works and DCR has been criticized for moving slowly on it.

DCR held a meeting more than two years ago when it gave three different options for improved access. The first concept would place a crosswalk on the west side of Perkins Street at the intersection and another crosswalk at the end of Parkman Drive. A traffic light would be installed, along with traffic-calming measures, such as bumping out the curb on the southeastern side of the intersection and fattening the medians on Perkins Street.

The second concept would place a crosswalk and pedestrian signal farther west on Perkins Street near Prince Street. A path would bring people to Parkman Drive, south of the intersection, where another crosswalk and pedestrian signal would be installed.

The third concept would place a crosswalk and pedestrian signal on Perkins Street, east of the entrance to Cabot Estate. A sign warning drivers of pedestrians crossing would be placed farther east on Perkins Street, prior to a curve in the street.

DCR told the Gazette on several occasions that it would hold a follow-up meeting on the intersection, but that never materialized until now. JP resident Kay Gibbs slammed DCR earlier this year for taking so long to install a crosswalk at the intersection.

“I think it is a stunning display of bureaucratic incompetence or red tape or both,” said Gibbs in June, as the Gazette previously reported.

According to Wall, DCR has created a hybrid option for improvements at the intersection from pubic input and the previous community meeting, and that the department will present the new option during the meeting in October, along with a timetable.

DCR also held a series of meetings earlier this year on a plan to improve the section of roadway between Murray Circle and Kelley Circle. 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.

The plan presented would create bike lanes separated from traffic by concrete barriers. It would also create safer pedestrian and bicycle crossings at both rotaries, in part by reducing on-street parking on the Arborway. The plan also proposes 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. Besides the meetings, DCR also held a comment period on the plan to collect input.

Asked how the aforementioned plan on Murray Circle and Kelley Circle will factor into the current effort, DCR did not respond directly to the question.

Asked if there is a budget or timeframe for any improvements, DCR did not respond directly to the question.

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