By Seth Daniel
Frustrated neighbors faced off Tuesday night at the South End Forum with equally frustrated Boston Transportation Department employees – also Southenders – over the speed of making safety changes to Tremont Street in the wake of a fatal car on pedestrian crash May 29.
While neighbors like Eric Huang of Blackstone advocated for taking quick action by painting new lines and reducing the lanes immediately, officials like Stefanie Seskin, also of the South End, said they want to make changes to Tremont Street but have to follow processes.
“We feel this tragedy deeply,” said Seskin, the City’s first Active Transportation Director. “We live in the South End and we feel this. It’s not as easy as going out there and doing something right away or painting new lines. But it is a priority and so we want to work with you and go through a process of the winter and get something done quickly. Unfortunately, we have processes, but we are going to try to work more quickly…We think Tremont Street deserves special consideration given the fatality we’ve experienced.”
Seskin and Vision Zero Coordinator Charlotte Fleetwood have worked closely on some changes at Beacon Street over the last year after a fatal bicycling crash occurred there. Many in other parts of the City, however, have grown frustrated with the pace of change on the streets.
That is particularly true of Tremont Street, which is a four-lane road with no median in the middle and frequent cross walks not governed by traffic lights.
Many have said a constant problem is that one car might stop for a pedestrian, but another car will go around that car – perhaps thinking the stopped car is parking. Once going around, usually at a fast speed, they encounter the pedestrian and hit them.
Fleetwood said one long-term idea is to have a “road diet” on Tremont Street, which means that the roadway would be reconfigured to likely have two lanes, a center turning lane and a protected bicycle lane. That, however, is way off into he future and involves great input and considerable reconstruction.
Seskin was asked if flashing crosswalks would be acceptable, and she said she believes that is not the overall answer on Tremont.
She said she thinks one of the most important, short-term changes could be making a refuge island in the center of the street to prevent pedestrians from having to make the four-lane crossing without protection.
There was also another fatal pedestrian accident a little over one year ago at Tremont and West Brookline Streets.
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