JPNC attempts to jumpstart parkway improvement project

The Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council has sent a letter to the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), attempting to jumpstart the department’s plan for improving safety and access to the parklands and parkways of the Emerald Necklace in Jamaica Plain.

DCR Commissioner Leo Roy responded to JPNC with a letter saying that the project was at “various stages of completion.”

DCR’s improvement plan has been progressing slower than molasses down a dirt hill on a cold winter morning. The 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 last fall. 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.

JPNC letter states that the council is concerned that the improvement project has “become stalled” despite the neighborhood being promised “substantial progress.”

“Until these projects are completed, the residents of Jamaica Plain and the thousands of others who also drive, bicycle, and walk at these locations will remain at peril,” the letter says.

The letter asks DCR to come out to the neighborhood as early as possible this fall to update the community on the project.

Roy in his letter to the council said that the improvement to the Perkins Street and Parkman Drive will go before the Boston Landmarks Commission for approval soon and then will go the Boston Conservation Commission for final approval. The Arboway part will reach 25 percent completion before the start of winter, when DCR will host a community meeting, according to Roy. He said DCR is “investigating short-term improvements to Centre Street, as the large-scale redesign is still a few years from being finalized.”

That timeframe is different from what DCR told the Gazette in April. Then, DCR had said that the improvements to the Perkins Street and Parkman Drive intersection would be presented to the Boston Landmarks Commission and the Boston Conservation Commission in the next two to three months; that the 25 percent design phase for the plan for Centre Street, from VFW Parkway to Murray Circle, would be done in the fall; and that DCR a 25 percent design phase for the Arborway plan would be completed during the summer.

When the Gazette asked why the improvement plan is taking so long, a DCR official responded that the department is working with its contractor to improve one of the most complicated roadway networks in the DCR system. The official added that the department and the consultant are gathering further input from stakeholders and elected officials before the Perkins Street and Parkman Drive improvements are presented to the Boston Landmarks Commission this fall.

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