Tuesday, September 6, 2016

DCR should update community on Arborway redesign

It has been eleven months since the DCR last updated the community on efforts to address multi-modal safety and access on the Arborway in Jamaica Plain. A public meeting on the project's status is now long overdue. This portion of the Emerald Necklace Parkways is dangerous to all users and after two decades of traffic research, consultant design work and public hearings action is needed to make these roads safe for cyclists, pedestrians and the thousands of cars that use it daily. I encourage all interested parties to write to DCR Commissioner Leo Roy calling for just such a meeting. My own letter follows:

August 31, 2016

Commissioner Leo Roy
Department of Conservation and Recreation
251 Causeway Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

Dear Commissioner Roy,

I write to declare my support for the DCR's ongoing efforts regarding "Improved Multi-Modal Safety & Access to Emerald Necklace Parks in Jamaica Plain (Arborway)" and to urge the DCR to hold public meetings updating the community on progress towards that goal as soon as possible.

I attended the two kick-off meetings in February 2015 as well as the follow-up meeting in October 2015 which included updates on related efforts regarding the Parkman Drive/Perkins Street Intersection at Jamaica Pond, the Centre Street corridor between the VFW Parkway and the Murray Circle rotary along with the Arborway section between Kelly Circle and the Casey Arborway including Murray Circle. In an effort to inform the surrounding community about these meetings and presentations, I described them fully in a blog I edit called ArborwayMatters available at the following links:

Over the last one hundred years the Emerald Necklace parkway corridor has evolved away from its original Olmsted-era recreational intent and is now, particularly in the study area of the Arborway and vicinity, quite dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists as well as the many vehicles that try to navigate it daily - very often at speeds far in excess of posted limits. Accidents occur regularly in the corridor, some resulting in fatalities. Murray and Kelly Circle are both poorly designed hazards to all users, are located within residential communities, and are vitally in need of improvement.

I was greatly encouraged by the thoughtful and innovative preliminary research and design work conducted by your contractor Toole Design in particular, and impressed by their responsiveness to community feedback in the work they did between the two meetings. I can also attest based on blog traffic to the above summaries and a well-attended Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council meeting last night where the topic was discussed, that Toole's work to date has been well received by many local residents and by drivers, pedestrians and cyclists who look forward to a more rational road network and significant traffic calming on the Arborway.

The community was assured at the October 2015 meeting that a 25% Design Plan for Phase 1 would be presented at a 25% Public Meeting to be held in "Winter/Spring 2016" and that Design Plans and Permitting for Phase 1 would be finalized between "Summer 2016 and Fall 2017" when construction was to begin.

The community eagerly awaits an update on the current state of design and the construction timeline. Thank you for your support of these important endeavors.

Clayton Harper

Secretary Matthew Beaton
Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs
100 Cambridge Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

Steven Kadish
Chief of Staff
Office of the Governor
Massachusetts State House Room 360
Boston, MA 02133

Michael Harris
Director of Governmental Affairs
Department of Conservation and Recreation
251 Causeway Street, Suite 900
Boston, MA 02114

Office of State Representative Jeffrey Sánchez
Massachusetts State House, Room 236
Boston, MA 02133


  1. Hi Clayton -- did you ever hear anything back from DCR? As a neighborhood resident I'd love to know what's going on with the Arborway rework as well.

  2. This letter did not generate a direct response from any of the addressees, though State Rep. Sanchez and his office have worked hard to keep this effort moving. DCR did meet with the JPNDC and a few others to dicuss these plans in March. The JP Gazette quoted chair Kevin Moloney saying that DCR and Roy had committed to summer construction for the somewhat related Perkins/Parkman intersection impriovements that have long been in limbo, but that "all else was bad news".

    At a recent public meeting on that project, DCR reps said the "Centre Street Improvements" project area between the VFW and Murray Circle - the large rotary at Centre and the Arborway - was "close to the 25% design stage" but that the "Arborway was not there yet". After all this time (and generally positive community feedback), that is a frustrating situation. The Gazette at the link above says DCR is looking for "another design solution" for the Arborway corridor pedestrian and bicycling issues.

    To me, that sounds like an ominous sort of stasis. But having attended the earlier meetings on the Arborway, I continue to have faith in Toole Design Group's vision, experience and expertise concerning the possibilities.

    I wrote up my impressions of the Perkins/Parkman meeting here:

    Given all the time and effort so far, and with the Casey Arborway Project growing ever closer to improving pedestrian and recreational connectivity in that portion of the corridor, it would be a shame for the Commonwealth to delay much needed safety improvements between the Arbporetum and the Pond.

    In better news, DCR has recently installed many 25 MPH signs between the rotaries and near the Pond - though enforement seems scant. And they at last repaired the crash-damaged fence in the median between the mainline Arborway and the frontage road just last week.