By Beth Treffeisen
It’s been years to make Beacon Street in the Back Bay safer, but now as freezing-cold temperatures settle in and roadways become dicier, the initial work of re-designing the roadway has been stalled, leaving a mess of cones and confusion as to where to park.
Beginning on Dec. 20, crews began work to re-paint lines that will shift the parking lane to a new location, creating a bike lane between parked cars and the sidewalk. As construction crews completed a block, they placed cones in the buffer area to indicate that cars should park to the left of them.
But, after the few inches of snow fell down on Christmas Day and eventually froze over with the cold temperatures, the work of re-designing the street stopped, leaving traffic cones, unfinished painted lines and no signage, which is expected to come later in the project.
“From Exeter [Street] down to Mass Avnue, people are doing it; they understand what to do,” said Don Carlson at a security meeting of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB) on Dec. 27. “But from B [Berkeley] to E [Exeter] blocks they’re confused.”
Major changes to Beacon Street will include fewer travel lanes that will encourage people to drive slower, updated walk signal timing, signage for 25 mph, new ‘no trucks’ signage and no turn on red signage. The project will also include daylighting, which helps people see each other at intersections by prohibiting parking at specific corners.
One of the most noticeable changes will be the parking-protected bike lane. Beginning after Berkeley Street, the lane will provide dedicated space for people biking and help organize the road. But this new lane has been the cause for the recent parking confusion.
Carlson said that Boston Transportation Department (BTD) did a good job at flyering the area to notify people but after construction started, the work crews didn’t do much outreach.
“We did push BTD to do it this year and after getting all of the permitting it happened to fall in December,” said Carlson. “They just can’t do anything now because the streets are frozen.”
The residents are worried that with more snow in the forecast, that plows will come by and cause an even bigger problem. The current buffer cones are bolted into the ground to prevent cars from going into the bike lane, but plows might go over them when they don’t see them in the snow, causing more damage and expenses once spring comes.
“The best we can do is relieve the chaos,” said Carlson.
Although BTD was in charge of the design of the street, the Boston Public Works Department is in charge of implementation, making it confusing on whom to contact about the problem.
Carlson said he has appealed to the BTD to not let Parking Enforcement Officers cite people who are not parking correctly on these blocks who may be uncertain as to where to park, but is unsure if that request has been honored or if it will change in the new year.
Martyn Roetter, the chair of NABB said he too, made a point to Stefanie Seskin, the active transportation director for BTD, to not issue fines for parking incorrectly as long as the situation remains unclear.
But in an e-mail Roetter said, “After Jan. 1 an accurate and clear explanation of what to expect and when has to be forthcoming or else the entire scheme will become vulnerable even to unreasonable criticism.”