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Intersection needs engineering fix, more enforcement

Morrissey Blvd. CrosswalkMorrissey Blvd. Crosswalk

Reporter readers have raised the volume on their complaints in recent weeks about a Morrissey Boulevard intersection that has long been a nuisance for both pedestrians and motorists.

The crossroad at Morrissey Boulevard and Bianculli Drive — best known as the entrance to UMass Boston campus and the Columbia Point peninsula— poses a hazard to folks crossing there because scofflaw motorists, frustrated by the congestion at the single southbound lane, routinely use left-turn-only lanes to avoid the red. While law-abiding drivers watch in frustration, scores of scofflaws blow the light every day — often when there is no back-up at the site.

All of which poses real peril for bicyclists and walkers who must cross a long expanse of the wide and busy boulevard while worrying about vehicles hurtling toward them in bypassing the single, narrow through lane.

As we report today, these concerns are starting to get the attention of state officials and there’s momentum building to prescribe an engineering fix for the crossing. But any substantial design changes there are likely many months away— at best. In the meantime, the State Police should establish a more regular presence at the intersection to enforce the current rules.

After we published a letter by Savin Hill resident Heidi Moesinger last month, we heard from several other readers who feel that the Morrissey crossing is a tragedy waiting to happen.

This week, Savin Hill’s Doreen Miller noted, “Just the other day at 1:50 p.m. as I was returning home waiting at the light at this intersection, I counted six cars that blew through this intersection going straight from the turning lane, and it wasn't even rush hour! At the same time pedestrians had the walk light across that section. These drivers not only broke the law, but also did it at a high unsafe rate of speed, further endangering anyone attempting to cross. Unbelievable! Something needs to be done and the sooner the better.”

Another reader, Michelle Carmell, commented that she spotted State Police stopping scofflaws at the intersection on July 19. She noted, “They can't be there 24/7. The intersection is poorly designed and drivers constantly (accidentally?) find themselves in the wrong lane.”

Carmell is right on both counts. It makes no sense to have three left-turn only lanes and a single through lane at this spot. (There are two additional southbound through lanes, coming off the bridge from Koscziusko Circle, but they are not accessible to motorists on that section of the boulevard.) And the long wait and quick cycle back to red at the single southbound lane is a great aggravation for motorists.

The poor traffic flow on this side of the boulevard has another unfortunate by-product. Many people traveling from South Boston or points north choose to avoid the congestion by accessing Morrissey via the Kocziusko rotary, further burdening that dangerous round-about with cars that would otherwise follow the safer route below.

In the short term, we think that a regular police presence can, and will, make a difference. The State Police are often staged farther south at Morrissey and Freeport to enforce the right lane restriction at that busy spot. Boston Police have made a difference on Granite Avenue by enforcing the right-turn only rule at Hilltop Street with a regular traffic car. A similar tactic should be employed more regularly at the crossing on Morrissey between Savin Hill and UMass, which has become an important and busy route for pedestrians as the peninsula has blossomed as a destination.

In the meantime, we hope our elected officials will press the obvious engineering design flaws with the Department of Conservation and Recreation, which controls the road. Their conversation should also include officials from UMass, BC High, the Globe, and other Columbia Point institutions, who have a keen interest in making this crossing safer.