By John Lynds
Late last week, the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) announced the list of neighborhoods that will be included in the city’s Slow Streets program. Out of 47 neighborhoods from across the city that applied to in the program, the city only picked five neighborhoods–news that was disappointing to two Eastie community groups who applied, but didn’t make the final cut.
Both the Harbor View Neighborhood Association (HVNA) and Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association (JPNA) applied to the program and receive money from the city to implement traffic calming measures in both neighborhoods. The two groups presented solid arguments as to why the two Eastie neighborhoods should be included.
HVNA members, Halle Auerbach said she identified several places that Slow Streets’ calming treatment, like signage and raised intersections could improve safety for children, families, the elderly and residents.
Where Harmony, Moore, Byron and Wordsworth streets intersect the busy Bennington Street, Auerbach suggested the Slow Streets approach of placing a Slow Streets “Gateway” sign. The sign is a signal to drivers that they have entered a Slow Streets zone.
Auerbach also suggested raised intersection at Horace and Moore streets and raised crosswalks on Byron Street between the Edward Brooke Charter School and Salesian Boys & Girls Club.
Other suggestions included adding “speed humps” on Byron, Moore and Coleridge streets to slow the speed of traffic in certain key areas as well as adding additional stop signs and better crosswalk and pavement markings.
JPNA board member David Aiken had similar ideas for streets in Jeffries Point like Sumner, Webster, Orleans and Maverick streets, among others. Aiken also wanted to add speed humps, slow-street-zone signage, more stops signs and better crossing areas.
HVNA Chair Matt Barison said he was not pleased with the officials’ decision to exclude Eastie.
“The Harbor View Neighborhood Association is disappointed that no East Boston applicant was selected for the Neighborhood Slow Streets program,” he said. “HVNA’s application was developed by professionals within the neighborhood and received wide support. As Eastie residents are well aware, the whole neighborhood suffers from degraded roads, obsolete infrastructure and chronic congestion. We believe that the Boston Transportation Department, MassDOT and Massport can and should do more to improve the safety of our streets and critical infrastructure.”
Barison said his group will continue to address the issue that prompted HVNA’s Slow Streets application–issues like speeding commuters who cut-through the beach in the morning and evening.
“We intend to reapply to the program in the future, but in the interim will advocate for the improvements outlined in our proposal,” said Barison. “We look forward to working with the Orient Heights Neighborhood Council to pressure the city and state to redesign Bennington Street. from Wood Island to Suffolk Downs as a complete street that will slow traffic and provide safer travel for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. As airport expansion and residential development continue to skyrocket, East Boston’s transportation infrastructure can no longer be neglected.”
The five neighborhoods picked were Chinatown, Grove Hall / Quincy Corridor, Highland Park, Mount Hope / Canterbury and the West of Washington Coalition.
“The five selected neighborhoods were among the highest-scoring,” said BTD in a statement. “Generally speaking, they have higher than average percentages of households with children under 18, are near more public assets, such as schools and parks, have experienced higher than average crash rates on the zones internal streets, and are near more key bus routes and rail transit stops.”
The city piloted this program with the Stonybrook neighborhood in Jamaica Plain and Talbot-Norfolk Triangle neighborhood in Dorchester. The goal was to improve safety for people who are walking, biking, and driving in these neighborhoods.
Designs proposed by residents during the pilot program included visual and physical cues to slow drivers to 20mph—making each street feel safer and more comfortable for people who live, walk, bike, or play in the neighborhood.
The city also began posting signs to alert people that they are entering a ‘Neighborhood Slow Streets’ area with a speed limit of 20 mph.
Other tools were pavement markings to help organize the streets and indicate traffic calming devices as well as speed humps to self-enforce driver speeds on each route through the neighborhood. Speed humps are typically four inches at their highest point and 12 to 14 feet long. People in cars and on bikes can comfortably travel over them at safe speeds.