Comment Letter: Improving parkways in Emerald Necklace

Comment Letter: Improving parkways in Emerald Necklace

March 2, 2015

Department of Conservation and Recreation
Office of Public Outreach
251 Causeway Street, Suite 600
Boston, MA 02114

Re: Improving parkways in the Emerald Necklace

Dear Commissioner Murray:

WalkBoston thanks you for launching the public process to improve safety and connections for people walking, bicycling and driving the section of the Emerald Necklace parkways between Jamaica Pond and the future Casey Arborway (under construction). As well as creating new, separated paths for pedestrians and cyclists, proposed improvements include replacing Murray and Kelley Circles with new, safer “roundabouts.”

We understand that your office was initially responding to concerns of the bicycling community. However, your staff and consultants, Toole Design Group, quickly saw that the challenges facing cyclists and pedestrians in this area cannot be fixed without also solving the existing problems of confusing and dangerous vehicle circulation and chronic speeding. So, the scope and objectives were expanded to all users.

WalkBoston is happy to support this comprehensive package of improvements. The safety of people who are walking or bicycling is absolutely dependent on changing the traffic circles. We feel that the proposed plan would both provide good vehicle access and accomplish the following benefits for walkers:
Improve connections between Jamaica Pond and the Arnold Arboretum for all park visitors, whether on foot or on bike
Improve safety and reduce the number of accidents, injuries and deaths Improve quality of life for local residents
Make the movements through the roundabouts clear and understandable and prevent speeding

All of us are aware that the Arborway is unsafe. Between 2008 and 2012 alone there were 135 crashes on the Arborway, with more than 20 injuries. Murray Circle is especially dangerous because of high vehicle speeds and lack of clarity for drivers. Cars frequently jockey for openings and exits. No one wants to walk or bicycle across the roads that feed into Murray Circle!

The process that DCR used to develop a set of “starter ideas” included both a public meeting and several meetings with local elected officials and pedestrian and bicycle advocates. The ideas presented by Toole Design at a public meeting on February 5 are impressive and promising.

  • Separate pedestrian sidewalks and bike paths would be provided in the area
  • The “circles” would be rebuilt as smaller, modern roundabouts that
    o    clarify vehicular movements
    o    make it difficult to exceed the “design speed” of 15‐20 mph
    o    provide multiple safe crosswalks (for people traveling in all directions)
  • Provide raised crosswalks to improve pedestrian visibility and slow traffic
  • Preserve the historic roads between today’s traffic circles including the allées of oak trees
  • Reduce the number of traffic signals that interrupt vehicle flow (reduced from 5 to 1)

What is strikingly innovative about the current “starter ideas” is the concept of replacing the enormous Murray Circle two smaller roundabouts, side by side, to sort and channel traffic clearly and efficiently – while providing multiple crossings for bikes and pedestrians.

In addition the plan provides local residents on both sides of the Arborway with multiple ways to access their homes, while using the outer roadways for local access only, making them safer for all users.

Naturally, a lot of details need to be worked out in the next phase of design (e.g. How will blind persons navigate the roundabouts? How will snow removal be handled?), but the big ideas are solid. Your agency’s intention is to make this area more livable for residents and park visitors alike while continuing to accommodate vehicles.

Wendy Landman
Executive Director

Comments are closed.