By John Lynds
While East Boston neighborhood groups were disappointed the neighborhood was not picked to receive funding or traffic safety improvements under the City of Boston’s Slow Streets program, the city’s Transportation Department (BTD) has been trying to make traversing some streets here a little easier.
Last week, outside of the Orient Heights MBTA stop on Bennington Street, BTD installed two rapid flash beacons at the crosswalk. The four lane street is heavily used by motorists and is the neighborhood’s main connection to neighboring Revere. However, that portion of Bennington Street is a treacherous stretch of roadway for pedestrians. While a crosswalk has always existed the lack of a traffic light has made crossing that section of Bennington nearly impossible. Many are forced to walk a block away to the intersection of Bennington and Saratoga to safely cross.
The rapid flash beacon at the intersection of Bennington, Ashley and Blackinton Streets is the third location in Eastie where these beacons have been installed by BTD and the Public Works Department to enhance pedestrian safety. The other locations in the neighborhood are the intersection of Saratoga Street and Barnes Avenue, and on Meridian Street at Gove, Havre and Decatur Streets.
The city’s Transportation Commissioner Gina Fiandaca said pedestrians are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the new safety equipment and push the button to activate these flashing signs before crossing.
“I urge people crossing at these three busy locations to press the button and wait for the signs to begin flashing before stepping off the curb,” said City of Boston Transportation Commissioner Gina N. Fiandaca. “Rectangular rapid flash beacons enhance safety for people walking by warning drivers that a pedestrian will be entering the roadway. The flashing signs make the pedestrian more visible, especially at night. They also alert drivers that they must yield and allow the person walking to safely cross the street.”
The key benefits of rectangular rapid flash beacons are that they increase driver awareness of potential pedestrian conflict and they increase the incidence of drivers who yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in crosswalks. The Boston Transportation Department cautions local motorists to come to a complete stop when approaching a rectangular rapid flash beacon that has been activated. Drivers are also reminded that the default speed limit in the City of Boston is 25 mph unless otherwise posted.
Like the Slow Streets program that both the Jeffries Point and Harbor View Neighborhood Associations applied for but did not receive, the rapid flash beacons and other traffic calming measures in Eastie are part of the city’s Go Boston 2030 plan and Boston’s Vision Zero.
These programs are trying to eliminate fatal traffic accidents in Eastie and around the city by 2030.
The beacons as well as improved bike lanes and a reduction in posted speed limits in Eastie are a commitment by the city to provide safe and efficient access on Boston’s streets for all users, whether people choose to walk, ride bikes, drive motor vehicles or use public transportation.