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Editorial: Long view, fast action needed to fix Morrissey

State Rep. Martin Walsh says he’ll convene a meeting of Columbia Point and Savin Hill stakeholders and transportation officials soon to “begin the process” of redesigning a troubled intersection that also serves as the entrance to UMass Boston’s campus and the Columbia Point peninsula.

That’s welcome news for both pedestrians and motorists, for whom this intersection has become more than an aggravation. It’s a public hazard.

The crossing at Morrissey and Bianculli boulevards has long been the source of complaints from Savin Hill neighbors who warn of grave danger to pedestrians trying to cross the busy roadway.

The intersection is also loathed by motorists, many of whom ignore red turn signals and proceed south —illegally— rather than wait in the long queues that are par for the course in the far right lane.

Walsh says he has asked the Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association to form a new subcommittee to lead a community process focused on a permanent fix. “In the short term, we are asking [the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation] to look at the timing of the lights there,” said Walsh. “But in the long term, I ultimately want the whole intersection redesigned and rebuilt.”

Last week, one vocal critic of the intersection— Heidi Moesinger— stepped up her campaign to seek a remedy for pedestrians, who she says are endangered daily by motorists who drive illegally through red lights. Moesinger posted a YouTube video showing the scofflaw cars blowing through the light as a pedestrian attempts to cross the street in a crosswalk with a walk signal.

Walsh says that more State Police enforcement at the intersection would be good, but he says it can’t be a permanent answer. “They can’t be there all the time,” he said.

He’s right, of course. But it would be a good idea for the State Police to send a clear message through a more sustained deployment at the intersection for consecutive days. The scofflaws who blow the light every day need to get the message that the authorities won’t look the other way just to ease the traffic flow at rush hour.

It has been more than a decade since Morrissey — one of the city’s essential links to the South Shore — was the focus of more than piecemeal infrastructure fixes.

A larger state plan that envisioned a $35 million “parkway” restoration along the entire 2.75-mile length of the boulevard — developed with community input by the now-defunct Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) in the mid-1990s— was abruptly shelved by leaders who deemed the project too costly.

Instead, the MDC spent a far smaller sum to build a new drawbridge farther down the roadway to replace an 85-year-old span that was then crumbling. The Beades Bridge project took about two years (2001-2003) and cost an estimated $9.1 million to complete.

But many other improvements outlined in the 1998 MDC report never came to fruition, including a reconfiguration of the Morrissey-Bianculli intersection. The original MDC restoration plan report called for reducing the “frontage” roads along BC High and the Boston Globe to one lane and adding bike lanes to the boulevard.

Walsh seems to have the right idea: make sure that key stakeholders like BC High, the Globe, and UMass are at the table with state officials from the get-go. It’s in everyone’s interest to find an expedited solution to this public safety mess.