Joint Comment Letter on MassDCR Arborway Improvement Project

Joint Comment Letter on MassDCR Arborway Improvement Project

December 16, 2019

Department of Conservation and Recreation
Office of Public Outreach
251 Causeway St 6th Floor
Boston, MA 02114

CC: Senator Chang-Diaz, Representative Nika Elugardo, Representative Liz Malia, City
Councilor Matt O’Malley, Chief of Streets Chris Osgood

Dear Mr. Jeff Parenti and team at DCR,

We are so glad the planning process for improving the Arborway has begun. Thank you for prioritizing this project and dedicating time and money to implementing short-term improvements. We agree with and support the overall project goals shared at the first meeting and are looking forward to partnering with you to reach those goals. One additional overall goal we suggest for the project is to restore the park in parkway. As the Massachusetts Historic
Parkways Initiative publication from 2002 highlighted (on its cover!), “A parkway is not a road; it’s a park with a road in it”. Not only is increased access to existing green spaces important, but also increasing green space and trees in the project area and restoring this section of the Emerald Necklace back to being primarily a park and secondarily a road.

Thank you for adding curb cuts and ramps where they are currently missing. This will not only help pedestrians and people using wheelchairs, but also cyclists who take the sidewalk due to unsafe road conditions.

We propose the following suggestions to the short-term improvements and overall planning
process from the meeting on November 21:

1. Changes to the proposed short-term improvements

We have identified three goals that we suggest should guide the short-term improvements: (1) Short-term improvements should calm traffic with a measurable outcome in vehicle speeds, (2) Short-term improvements should result in a measurable reduction in the number of crashes and (3) Short-term improvements should show increased pedestrian and cyclist usage along the stretch. In order to measure the progress and inform the permanent changes, part of the short-term process should include collecting before/after speed data on the impact of these changes and conducting bike and pedestrian counts before and after.

Specifically, in response to the proposed short-term changes we recommend the following:

a. Adjust the positioning of the crosswalk and curb cuts at the Arborway crossing on the exit that brings cars towards Forest Hills so that pedestrians have a better view of oncoming cars. All of us who use this crosswalk regularly agree that this is the most dangerous and difficult crossing especially because as you cross you
can’t see what is coming behind you.

b. Include a lane removal in the carriage lanes between Murray and Kelley Circles as a short-term improvement and put in a physically separated bike lane in the reclaimed space.

c. Add a crosswalk over Centre St by Orchard St which is a current desire line used frequently by pedestrians.

d. Narrow lanes as much as possible in Murray Circle by adding flex posts or other barriers in addition to the paint proposed to narrow lanes.

e. There is currently no proposal for how to improve cyclist safety in Murray circle in the short-term. While we realize traffic calming may be the most significant improvement, we would like to see options for getting cyclists through Murray Circle in the short-term; one that directs cyclists to use sidewalks with paint and signage and one that keeps cyclists on the road. Please circulate options for public feedback before implementation this spring.

2. A robust public engagement process

Especially given the history of previous planning processes for the Arborway and the frustrations expressed by the public at the first meeting, we suggest extra communication and time with the public and believe that this will lead to the most successful process and outcome. We appreciate, for example, the robust public comment period held during the first meeting and are glad to hear that there is a communications and facilitation team for meetings moving forward.

We ask for a publication of a timeline for the project that outlines expected meetings, other public engagement opportunities and milestones (25% design, construction, etc) as soon as possible. We suggest quarterly meetings or other public engagement during the project planning phase. We strongly feel that this will go a long way in building trust and transparency with area-residents. We hope the process is as concise as possible and includes regular communication so residents continue to engage productively in the planning and discussion.

Finally, we suggest including walks as a public engagement tool. We have seen that people who currently only drive through the area have a very different understanding of the safety and connectivity needs when walking or riding a bike there.

3. Coordination

a. Given resident concerns about traffic being diverted to side streets, we suggest including those neighborhood side streets in Jamaica Hills and the Jamaica Pond neighborhood in traffic studies and projected traffic patterns to demonstrate to residents the hopefully minimal impact it will have on their streets.

b. Thank you for the coordination and communication you have had with the City of Boston around this project. We hope this will continue so the City can partner around implementing some traffic calming at intersections or side streets that will be impacted.

c. We understand that Centre/Walter St and Arborway are proceeding at the same time. We ask that DCR consider the impact one project will have on the other and ensure that both consultant teams are sharing information and plans. We ask that public meetings on either project share consolidated updates on the other related process.

4. Other overall comments

a. We are glad to see one of the goals is to “Create a continuous and comfortable bicycle and pedestrian connection between the Arboretum and Pond”. We ask that the bicycle facilities be physically separated the entire length regardless of whether they are a shared-use path off-road or on-road facility.

b. As you move forward conducting traffic studies, we encourage you and the consultant team to not only consider current vehicle demand to predict future behavior, but to take into consideration that a design that encourages walking/biking can actually get people out of their cars. Both the Commonwealth, under the Global Warming Solutions Act, and the City of Boston have ambitious goals (e.g., Boston reducing emissions and car traffic in half by 2030) that relate to reducing the number of cars on the roads. Emissions from the transportation sector have stayed steady in the state and are not meeting the reduction goals we have set; as a State agency who has custody & control of the roadways we believe DCR can be a critical partner in meeting these goals.

Thank you for your consideration of our suggestions. We look forward to continuing to work together around our shared goals for this project.

Eliza Parad, Boston Cyclists Union
Tom Francis, Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition
Ambar Johnson, LivableStreets Alliance
Brendan Kearney, WalkBoston
Evan Judd, West Rox Walks
Sarah Freeman, Arborway Coalition
David Wean, Rozzie Bikes
Ben Wetherill, West Roxbury Bicycle Committee

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