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City to air plans to make Centre Street in West Roxbury safer

Boston transportation officials tomorrow will show off their formal plans for curbing vehicular mayhem along Centre Street, spurred on by a pedestrian's death at Centre and Hastings in February.

A meeting on the proposal starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Holy Name School gym.

Officials promised to propose a plan for Centre Street at a meeting three weeks after Marilyn Wentworth's death at which the Wentworth family pleaded with the city to do something about the road, as did a man who suffered a traumatic brain injury getting hit by a car at the same intersection in 2015.

Officials said they would take as a starting point a 2017 study by a team at Northeastern that recommended several changes for Centre between Holy Name and Spring Street, including narrowing the road from two travel lanes to one in each direction, with pedestrian islands and turn lanes at key intersections. The remaining space could be used for dedicated bicycle lanes, Northeastern Prof. Peter Furth said, adding travel time would not go up because the changes would convince people who now use the road as a sort of mini-highway to stick to VFW Parkway.

The meeting seems destined to generate loud and possibly angry debate. In recent days, somebody has walked up and down Centre, convincing some store owners to post signs warning the proposed changes would turn Centre into a gridlocked hellhole that would trap ambulances, firetrucks and police cruisers both during construction and afterwards, a hellhole made even worse by the proposed Roxbury Prep on Belgrade Avenue, a hellhole that could be made even more gridlocked by just a single Amazon van with a driver intent on making a delivery.

The anonymous flier does not ask readers to ponder the experience of Washington Street in Roslindale, which is just one lane in each direction for most of its length.

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Comments

I walk by that intersection twice per day at a variety of times. I ride by routinely. When I walk, I usually cross where the memorial is to the woman who was recently struck. People still speed by, usually on the inside lanes. I have never seen a policeman present, though the intersection is right near the station. At least once in a while one would think the police would have a presence.

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Voting closed 45

About a month after that woman lost her life I was almost hit at that same xwalk. The next week it was the xwalk at the PO; one lane stopped the next lane the driver kept going without taking her foot off the pedal. The week after was when I was *trying* to cross at the 7/11. I haven't seen a police presence once.

Holy Name Death rotary? I tried for almost a year with the police station to get someone out there and start to ticket - all they said was "this isn't our territory; Parkways are run by the state. So I tried with a few of Menino's people...nada. I stopped trying when 1) I was in that xwalk and someone blew by me & the police cruiser behind him did nothing 2) a few weeks later a police cruiser cut me off while I was in the xwalk.

I'm not going to the meeting tonight b/c I am tired. Tired of hearing about people's "right" to drive their cars wherever and however they want. Tired of hearing about how it will screw up traffic, businesses and a host of other bs. Tired of the bitching about losing their free parking for life. Tired of hearing about not wanting the gas tax hiked because they pay excise tax (my excise tax is $60 a year - I am self aware enough that this doesn't pay for anything). I pay $2400 a year for the T...I think drivers get off pretty cheap in this state.

It's time to think outside of the box. With all the building it is only going to get worse. We have to think about our infrastructure and improvements to it. The time to make changes is now. There are plenty of tried and true remedies for areas like Centre St. It's just getting people to see that just b/c they drive a car doesn't mean they have entitlement over everyone else.

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Voting closed 35

It's important for the city to hear your point of view at the meeting tonight. Please consider attending.

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You are right. I will try. Unfortunately I wouldn't be able to get there until close to 730pm.

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Voting closed 11

perhaps remove the xwalk? Thinking outside the box :)

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Voting closed 11

At the pedestrian meeting at the Elks in February there were a lot of voices in support of safety enhancements on Centre St and I'm hopeful for a similar turnout tomorrow at Holy Name.
Enforcement is great but it's not a preventative measure. The only way to make Centre St safer for everyone is by improved road design. Infrastructure that forces drivers to operate cautiously will reduce fatal collisions for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers alike. There are a high percentage of seniors and adults with young children in West Roxbury and they should not have to play frogger to cross the street. There have been too many accidents involving pedestrians on Centre and this is completely unacceptable. It's time for a lane reduction.
And I don't want to sound like I'm not sympathetic to the businesses on Centre, some of which have been vocal about a hypothetical loss of business being the only product of safety improvements on Centre. My mother was crossing Centre St to get a cup of coffee at Recreo when she was killed by a reckless driver, so my heart truly goes out to all the shops that will have to somehow get by without her patronage. Let's hope the rest of your customers have better luck navigating the street. See you tomorrow.

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Voting closed 78

when they tried to make L Street in South Boston safe. Uh.....about 2 weeks. When the City really cares about it's pedestrians is when they will seriously do something about street safety.

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Voting closed 18

I’d say that’s a sign they are serious.

I mean, did you even read the plans?

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Voting closed 17

Step 1: Pretend to give even the faintest hint of a damn about traffic enforcement
Step 2: I dunno, we'll talk about Step 2 once Step 1 rolls out anywhere in the goddamn city

I drove down this stretch of Centre Street today. The first (of five) double-parked delivery trucks I encountered after the rotary was IN FRONT OF THE POLICE DEPARTMENT, delivering to the 7-11 across the street. You could not be more brazen if you tried. Guess how many of Boston's finest had bothered to ticket this asshole? And guess how many of his compatriots dealt with the unexpected lane closure by aggressively accelerating into the middle lane to cut someone else off, rather than wait the extra 3 seconds it would otherwise take to merge into a moving lane?

You can put concrete pylons in the middle of traffic lanes; it won't matter if the cops refuse to enforce traffic regulations.

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Voting closed 34

Erik, you made the case to residing the street. Right now there is so much opportunity to screw around that endorsement is useless. A new layout will remove the opportunity to double park etc.

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Voting closed 16

Well that should be a job for 311. Just report it to 311. They'll send a meter maid down in about 4 hours to clear out the area. Duh.

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Voting closed 17

I know.. it’s not like the police are dealing with the 4 shooting deaths last week or the guaranteed incoming summer violence.

Forget all that! There’s a truck double parked in an affluent white neighborhood!

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Voting closed 16

BPD is divided into a series of districts, each with its own set of resources. So that double murder in JP, which is District E-13, is not going to affect traffic enforcement in West Roxbury, which is E-5 (the one possible exception is the first couple of hours after a shooting, when the district where it happened will typically call in a couple of cars from neighboring districts to handle routine calls while the local cops are busy looking for evidence, interviewing witnesses and the like).

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Voting closed 30

Right, our safe affluent neighborhood shouldn’t need constant patrol. And if we make proper design changes Centre Street will need most minimal patrol.

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Will Walsh implement similar plans throughout the city, or does each neighborhood need to wait till someone is killed until he wakes up and does something?

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Voting closed 35

Maybe not as fast as you might like, but, yes, there is a plan.

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Voting closed 18

The most disingenuous (and common) argument about road improvements is this:

...warning the proposed changes would turn Centre into a gridlocked hellhole that would trap ambulances, firetrucks and police cruisers both during construction and afterwards

If you actually care about having emergency vehicles being unimpeded, the only logical argument is to prohibit traffic on 1-2 lanes or just block the road to non-emergency traffic entirely. Is this what they want?

Bike Lanes make the road quicker for emergency vehicles because they allow a space for cars to move out of the way to let ambulances, etc pass. Curb to curb cars (current configuration) is the worst configuration if you're concerned about emergency vehicle movement.

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Voting closed 27

It’s revealing that most of the furor has seemed to focus on bike lanes here when they are a minor, secondary part of this. It’s about pedestrian safety for a major business district. The bike lanes are a flashpoint in culture wars, most of the people opposing them are hard-wired old-timers who refer to West Roxbury as a “town” and still religiously read the Herald. They just hate change and anything different.

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Voting closed 32

Hey everyone, nothing to worry about here. Transportation engineers told us time and time again that the removal of the Casey overpass at forest hills (plus new road network) would result in smooth sailing through the area. That worked out well right? If you are driving a car near there right now, feel free to comment because you are likely sitting in gridlock.

People love to talk about the new bus lane on Washington street from the Rozzie Square to Forest Hills. Bad comparison to centre street. It is still two lanes, with one dedicated to buses. And it still takes almost 30 minutes to get from the square through forest hills at 7:00 because of the cluster from the removal of the overpass.

Removal of lanes on centre st would be an absolute disaster. And when the Northeatern professor sites the VFW parkway as an alternative to Centre, it tells me he has never sat in traffic there. Gold lord.

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Voting closed 24

As somebody who does drive through there, yeah, Forest Hills was absolutely awful during construction. But now that it's done and people have adjusted to the new lanes (even that weird U-turn thing to go left onto Washington from the Arborway), no, it's not "smooth sailing," but it's no worse than it was before.

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Voting closed 30

Adam - if I leave the square at 7:15 in the AM, I will have clear sailing usually until I hit Ukraine Way. Then I sit for about 20 minutes to get the rest of the way past Forest Hills to the Arborway (watching light cycle after light cycle after light cycle). It is SO much worse than it was back then - like not even close. And my point is that "Traffic Engineers" ensured everyone that new surface roads were the answer for aging Casey Overpass. Not so much.

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Voting closed 22

Have to disagree with you here. Forest Hills is a mess. You’re right in that it is not as bad as when it was being reconstructed, but it is still ten times worse then when the bridge was still up.

I remember when The plans were being presented that it was said that it would only add 30 seconds to anyone driving thru. That has failed to materialize. As someone who drives through here daily, I can tell you that getting through forest hills takes at least ten minutes during rush hour. When I go home at night, when the traffic is light, it still takes much longer than the promised 30 additional seconds.

I agree that the bridge needed to come down due to safety reasons, but the state had an opportunity to build this area in such a way that could have maintained the traffic flow in the desperately needed east/west route while still upgrading the area for other users (peds, bikes) and they failed miserably. Given recent projects like this, I have no hope or faith in the state’s or city’s ability to do something right anywhere else.

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Voting closed 19

And it still takes almost 30 minutes to get from the square through forest hills at 7:00 because of the cluster from the removal of the overpass.

That is absolutely untrue and a laughable assertion. Not even the most ardent opponent of the bus lane makes that claim. You either don’t know what you’re talking about or are exaggerating for effect.

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Voting closed 28

I clearly said that the issue is with the intersection. I can move down Washington Street rather quickly but I'm still going to sit at the Hills for 20 minutes waiting for ill-times light cycles to finally get me from Ukraine Way to the Arborway - and that is pretty much every day. Was never that bad when the overpass was there - fact.

And I love how my opinion is dismissed as "laughable" and I "don't know what I'm talking about" - typical UHub comments these days. So progressive of you.

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Voting closed 13

I think you’re replying to the wrong comment unless you’re posting under multiple accounts here. Either way, it does back up from Ukraine Way to Arborway at peak morning commute, agreed. But it’s not 20 minutes. I drove through it this morning in a couple minutes, for example. You and everyone else are exaggerating.

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Voting closed 8

Even with the 3 vehicles that are routinely parked at various points in the bus lane, traffic flows well. I get to the station by 7:35 typically.

If you are getting to the Square at 7 and getting to Forest Hills at 7:30, I’d recommend leaving 20 minutes later. You issues are probably isolated to the exact time you commute.

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Voting closed 17

Yes, buses flow (I am pro bus lane there) - and traffic moves ok as well, until you get to Ukraine way, then you sit in your car forever because the washington/arborway intersection is a mess. And my original point is that traffic engineers say their plans will work, and sometimes they don't.

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Voting closed 12

Having previewed people's hard-wired opinions on this topic on Facebook, this meeting will be like a Bernie vs Trump debate: not one person's view will be changed and people will just call the other side stupid jerks.

I WAS swayed by the NU report and now support the idea of a single lane.

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Voting closed 16

The Facebook “debate” on this is nuts. In addition, yes someone is handing out flyers suggesting that the city intends to use Billings’s field park cars for Centre St. I just hope tonight’s meeting does not devolve into a shouting match about the protected bike lane. Centre St needs a lane reduction to slow traffic and make it safe to cross. The enhanced signage and flex post they put in do not work. I watched a car blow right through the crosswalk Monday with a pedestrian there. Same spot at Hastings Street. Its been over 4 months since the Elks meeting I hope the city has a common sense plan and a quick timeline to get it done

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Voting closed 20

Sadly, doing what you did and reading a report by experts is so unlikely for these people. I favored the change and the information in that report made me a huge advocate.

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Voting closed 17

Many of the same people going nuts about this road diet also are the loudest complainers about traffic safety and drivers needing to slow down. Well, the city has proposed a well-researched solution known to be effective. And now they complain anyway. Same crew that complains about any new housing in one breath then high prices in the next. Same crew that thinks a new high school with most students of color will destroy their bucolic neighborhood. Not serious people and they should be ignored by City Hall.

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Voting closed 29

I’m confident they will be ignored by City Hall. We do need people to show up in favor.
Same old problem that these folks have nothing better to do so they’ll all be there. People with jobs and kids can’t drop everything. I’ll be there.

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Voting closed 18

Here's a few thoughts.

First - Professor Furth is anti car and pro bike. He is biased on this. Do not take his study claiming the effect on traffic to be minimal. That is false.

The study shows an increase to vehicle delay (congestion, emissions, fuel use) by 40% on Centre Street using current traffic volumes. Level of Service at Spring, Lorrette, and LaGrange will become an F on certain approaches.

Also - in order to reduce the lanes and make it work as above (increased delay), they also need to change the exclusive pedestrian phase (all walk, no cars) to concurrent with a lead Walk (you cross in the same direction as moving/turning traffic but you get a few seconds head start with the Walk. If you keep the all walk with the road diet, then it really gets bad. I bet alot of folks will not want cars moving as they cross the street.

Many people now use GPS navigation - how many neighborhood streets will become cut thrus to avoid Centre St and VFW congestion. Because that is what GPS will do for the quickest route.

The current bike volumes on Centre St are insanely low - 3 to 5 per hour. Even pedestrian volumes crossing Centre Street are pretty low (less than 20 per hour).

The city needs to stop giving in to requests for crosswalks at every intersection. It is so dangerous to have a uncontrolled (no signal) crosswalk on a multi lane road. If the car in the right lane stops to yield, the car in the left lane may not even see the ped and the ped thinks they are safe to cross but they are not. (In fact, I believe this is exactly what happened here). On 4 lane roads, no crosswalks except at traffic lights.

There is no Southwest Expressway. People from the SW need to get into the City for work, appts, etc. The traffic will always be there for now - West Roxbury needs to decide which streets are going to handle the traffic. Wishing it away won't work.

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Voting closed 12

That BTD will have data from sources without biases.

That said, between double parkers and the left lanes often being used as turning lanes anyway, there might be a point to going down to one travel lane in each direction.

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Voting closed 17

who my employer is....

Let's just say there is strong disagreement on this proposal between the planners and engineers.

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Voting closed 10

There is no Southwest Expressway.

There would be if people like you and others opposing this had their way in the 70s. Thankfully that didn’t happen.

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Voting closed 25

Do you live in Dedham or Westwood? Sounds like your basically feeling here is that West Roxbury needs to be primarily set up to serve the needs of people from the SW portion of the metro area to drive though the neighborhood uninterrupted.

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Voting closed 18

Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think very many people coming from Dedham drive all the way down Centre St (say from the VA and continue past Holy Name) on their commute. If you are heading into "the city", the majority would just stay on the VFW, which is busy, but still generally faster than going all the way down Centre.

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Voting closed 12

No. I live in the city. Used to live in West Roxbury, now in Southie.

It's not what I think or want drivers to behave - it's the reality. Wishing them away won't work.

Reduce Centre St to one lane and don't complain to me if they start cutting through your residential street.

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Voting closed 14

Put some stop signs on the side streets and people/Waze will route them over to Washington and the VFW.

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Voting closed 3

The rates of person crossings reflect a current dangerous state. People avoid walking and cycling as much as possible. People are begging for a safe road they can use to get things done on foot or bike.

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Voting closed 5