Dartmouth Street Intersection Critical in Tremont Re-design

Marie Roberts of the Gifted store, as well as other small business owners in the area, at the corner of Dartmouth/W. Dedham and Tremont Street have witnessed the dangers of the complicated intersection – and in Roberts’ case, they have even felt it.

“I did get bumped there by a car once when I was crossing Dartmouth,” she said. “I was alrighty, it was a love tap, but I did get bumped onto the ground. There is just so much to look at there. I actually wasn’t upset with the driver because I had been in her shoes…There are definitely a lot of issues with people getting hurt. It’s hard. You want to blame each other, but it’s such a confusing intersection.”

Philip Saul of Sault New England, and Sofi Madison, of Olives & Grace, both agreed with Roberts that the intersection has so much energy to overcome for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians – and it’s a gateway to the Tremont Street business district and on a cut-through route from the highway.

“There was a day I was walking to the post office an I saw a woman just lying on the ground at the West Dedham side,” said Madison. “She was lying on the ground and was asking for us to call her mother. She got hit and was on the ground. I didn’t know whether she was going to die. You never know what will happen there. I’ve actually seen dogs get hit and killed there too.”

Saul said that cars simply go too fast in order to beat the lights and get out of the congestion and dysfunction of an intersection that is angled, heavily traveled and improperly signaled.

“You definitely need to be a very on-top-of-it driver,” he said. “You have to know the intersection, and many don’t. The cars are going so fast. I think that’s the biggest thing from my perspective. I’m a walker and a driver. With the crosswalk there, everything is going super, super fast…There just isn’t a lot of rhythm there and it’s not predictable.”

As part of the Tremont Street re-design, which is underway now, the infamous Dartmouth intersection is being examined and several ideas are being put forth.

Stefanie Seskin, active transportation director for the Boston Transportation Department (BTD), said they are well aware that Dartmouth is a dangerous intersection.

“The pedestrian signals release at the same time as the southbound light,” she said. “That leads to confusion and uncertainty when you are in the crosswalk if there is heavy traffic on Dartmouth. We’re looking at that intersection for pedestrians to start first and then release the vehicles.”

The purpose of the Tremont re-design, she said, is to enhance the safety of the pedestrian experience. Having pedestrians cross before cars are let go would help to fulfill that mission, and keep walkers safe as well.

A second piece of that puzzle is the possibility of two left-turn lanes on Tremont Street – one northbound and one southbound. Currently, with four lanes of traffic, those turning simply block a straight-ahead lane – adding to the confusion for everyone.

Seskin, however, said the Dartmouth intersection is really just another of many tough intersections on the corridor that they have studies.

“To be fair to everyone on the corridor, I think this is one of many,” she said. “This is a tough intersection. The intersection at the library is another sensitive intersection, as is the one at Berkeley Street.

She said they will have a final design, with one preferred concept, in the late spring or early summer to share with the public.

“I think the energy of that intersection frustrates people,” said Madison. “When you finally get through that cluster of a situation, you start to speed up. That’s when you see people up at Union Park not stopping. It almost encourages people to go faster because there isn’t a good rhythm for the driving and walking perspective. I hope they can address that.”

The next meeting for input on the plan is March 14 at the People’s Baptist Church on Camden Street at 7 p.m.

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