Bay Village Hears Plans for Crosswalk Upgrades after Years of Fighting for Safer Intersections

It’s been over a decade in the making, but Bay Village residents finally heard plans to upgrade and install safer crosswalks along Arlington Street at the end of Melrose and Isabella streets.

The Boston Transportation Department (BTD) met with residents during the Bay Village Neighborhood Assocation (BVNA) executive board meeting on Monday, March 5, presenting plans to raise crosswalks, bump out the sidewalks, and add more signage to the dangerous intersection.

The plans include adding crosswalk bump outs on either side of Melrose Street and on one side of Isabella Street, which already has an existing one on the side closest to the school.

The crosswalks will be raised, creating a flat speed bump. It is expected that with the existing stop signs the raised cross ramp will slow cars down even more as they enter the busy Arlington Street.

To make crossing even easier, a flashing beacon on a pole on both sides of Arlington Street will flash when a pedestrian hits a button, activating it for about 15 seconds. The yellow beacon will warn drivers that a person is trying to cross, hopefully slowing them down further.

BTD also plans on installing new 25 mph speed-signs to remind drivers of the new speed limit in Boston.

The design is at 20-percent design and has funding from the City to implement. Construction is expected to begin this fall or spring.

After hearing the plans, as one resident put it, “We’re all really excited; it’s like Christmas!”

But BTD officials said they got a little blind-sided when Bay Village residents asked to reverse the direction of Isabella Street in order to prevent cars from cutting through the neighborhood to get to Arlington Street.

“The request to reverse Isabella Street came to us as a little surprise,” said a BTD representative. “If you are still asking for a reversal of Isabella Street we would have to start from scratch.”

Traffic engineers looked into how the reversal of the street would affect traffic elsewhere in the area and found that the intersections of Arlington and Stuart streets along with Columbus and Berkeley streets would be negatively affected by the change.

Those intersections are already busy, but the reversal of Isabella Street would add an additional 250 to 350 cars, backing up the area even more.

BTD conducted its own research in 2017, which showed slightly different numbers than a Howard Stein report from 2009.

After contacting the Traffic Management Center at City Hall, BTD learned that these intersections are already at maximum use, and if additional traffic is added, the center wouldn’t be able to do anything else to minimize the impact.
This worried BTD officials because it could cause additional delays for the fire department located on Columbus Avenue if traffic were to back up from the Columbus Avenue and Arlington Street intersection.

In addition, there are worries that people coming out of Melrose Street would make a dangerous right hand turn onto Arlington Street (which is one-way) and go across to Isabella Street if reversed.

“I don’t think it makes sense anymore now that we have these great plans,” said Nancy Morrisroe, chair of City Services and Traffic for BVNA.

Some residents still had some concerns of cars speeding down Isabella Street even though they would have to slow down before entering Arlington Street with the new raised crosswalk. They wondered if it was possible to add another raised crosswalk at the beginning of the street.

BTD representatives said they didn’t think so, but will look into what it would take to change the parking from just one side of the street to moving the parking to the other side for half of the street. That way a car will have to zigzag down the street, slowing them down before reaching Arlington Street.

In addition, BTD said they will conduct their own research to see how fast people are going down the street to figure out what is going on and will go from there.

The BVNA has been asking for crosswalk upgrades dating back to 2007, when the crosswalks were in need of some repainting after some recent roadwork. Even then, residents pointed out how drivers use the wide roadway to speed down to get to the on-ramp of I-90 or continue onto Essex Street to get to I-93.

Residents in prior meetings said they’ve witnessed those attempting to cross “almost get smoked,” by cars not looking for pedestrians before speeding onto Arlington Street.

Residents at the meeting showed their support for the upgraded crosswalks and asked if it could be implemented faster, saying it is just one accident away before someone could potentially die, but, BTD representative said, “This is as fast as we can go.”

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