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WalkBoston Comments on DCR Arborway Parkways Improvement Project

WalkBoston Comments on DCR Arborway Parkways Improvement Project

November 6, 2020

Jeffrey R. Parenti, Program Manager
DCR
Division of Planning and Engineering
251 Causeway St.
Boston, MA 02114

Re: WalkBoston Comments on the DCR Arborway Parkways Improvement Project

Dear Jeff:

WalkBoston is enthusiastic about the direction that DCR is taking for the Arborway Improvement Project, both the range of choices that you have shown and the approach of providing opportunities for extensive public comments and input well before any decisions have been made about the project design. We look forward to working with you and the design team to arrive at a truly transformative design for this beautiful but dangerous piece of the Emerald Necklace.

Our comments are framed from the standpoint of design options and operations and are therefore not focused on the specific concepts that have been illustrated to date. As you and the designers have noted, the drawings are indicative of design approaches rather than design specifics.

  • We applaud the Common Features proposed in all three alternatives as outlined on the project website, including: the focus on safety for all modes, vehicle speed reduction throughout, increase in the amount  of parkland and reduction in the amount of pavement, and special care given to the landscape design and trees along the corridor.
  • We understand that the project is still in its early phases of planning and design, but echo the comments at the public meeting that the travel data for all modes is needed to better understand the pros and cons of each option. We caution that pedestrian and bike volumes will likely be understated if existing conditions are the baseline because so many walkers and cyclists avoid this portion of the Arborway in its present configuration. We hope that DCR and the consultant team can provide some understanding of how future conditions might reflect the likely increase in pedestrian and cyclist use of the project area.
  • We believe that separate walking and biking paths must be provided throughout the project area. The Arborway is an important bike commuting corridor, and mixing pedestrians and commuting (higher speed) bicyclists reduces the safety and comfort for both groups. Once the improvements to the Arborway are made, we believe that the corridor will see significant increases in both pedestrian and bike usage.
  • We like the introduction of a signalized pedestrian crossing between Kelley and Murray Circles in Alternatives B and C, and think it is an effective way of slowing traffic and making it clear to drivers that this is an area where there will be many pedestrians and cyclists.
  • We believe that eliminating the traffic circles at Murray and Kelley Circle will provide significant safety improvements for both pedestrians and bicyclists. As noted in MassDOT’s September 2020 Guidelines for the Planning and Design of Roundabouts, locations specifically called out as places where “roundabouts may not be advantageous” include those with “intersections with a heavy concentration of pedestrians and bicyclists,” and “intersections with acute angles between approaches.” Since the Arborway project is being specifically designed to address pedestrian and bicycle safety, and because its geometry may pose problems, we believe that the elimination of the traffic circles is an important element of project design.
  • While the different concepts show improved pedestrian crossings in many locations, we are concerned that there are still quite a few unsignalized slip lane crossings that remain in each of the alternatives. Significant design features, and possibly signals, will be needed to make these crossings safe for walkers and bicyclists.

In addition to our comments on the concepts and the broad conversation that DCR is undertaking, we also urge DCR to engage in more detailed conversations and outreach with the neighbors directly adjacent to the project whose travel patterns will be affected by the changes to the Arborway. We know that there is a long history of high concern by neighbors, and hope that intensive outreach can both answer questions and reduce anxiety about potential changes.

WalkBoston looks forward to continuing to work with you on this exciting project, and we also look forward to walking safely along a rejuvenated part of the Emerald Necklace from Jamaica Pond to Forest Hills in the (relatively) near future.

Sincerely,

Stacey Beuttell, Executive Director

Wendy Landman, Senior Policy Advisor

 

Cc: Nate Lash, nlash@hshassoc.com

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