A treacherous stretch of Savin Hill Avenue is getting renewed scrutiny from city officials after complaints from neighbors who say that speeding, reckless drivers, and the narrow nature of the street itself pose a serious safety risk.
City Councillor Frank Baker and the city’s transportation chief, Thomas Tinlin, went on a walkthrough of the area with neighbors six weeks ago, an expedition that resulted in the installation of new signs urging caution on the two-way stretch of the avenue. Still, Baker says, the street cannot handle all of the traffic.
Earlier this month March, Baker took a second walk with residents that focused primarily on Savin Hill Avenue and Sydney Street and took up requests for stop signs and traffic signals in that section.
Noting another stop-sign request for Grampian Way and Castlerock Street, Jim Mansfield, the city’s transportation department’s director of community affairs, said that all traffic change requests have to meet certain criteria and undergo a volume and speed study that will monitor traffic flow.
The city had been looking into the possibility of placing a double yellow line down Savin Hill Avenue and posting signs about corner restrictions at Sydney Street and Savin Hill Avenue.
“The issue with the double yellow line is that the roadway is too narrow and we’d have to remove parking,” said Mansfield said. “That is something the neighborhood did not want, so it doesn’t look like that will happen.”
Aileen Sandler, 86, is mainly concerned about handicap crossings on the Savin Hill Avenue bridge over the Southeast Expressway. While waiting for the lines to be repainted, she said it is difficult to see the crossing signs on the fence.
“I live in a condo with 64 units, many of them occupied by seniors,” said Sandler, who has macular degeneration. “I need all the help I can get to be able to get around and am thankful I’m still able to use the “T.”
The crossing at the bridge, Sandler said, is “an accident waiting to happen.”
Heidi Moesinger, 26, who has lived in Savin Hill her entire life, said she has heard complaints about traffic patterns for years. The area between Playstead Road and Denny Street has cars parked on a narrow street where many accidents occur.
She has floated the idea of either making that stretch of the avenue one- way or restricting parking if it remains a two-way street. Moesinger also suggested parking at the beach lot, but acknowledged that most people living in the area would be opposed to that.
Although more of a seasonal problem, the traffic and parking by the Savin Hill Park tennis and basketball courts is another concern, with drivers using the area as short cut from Morrissey Boulevard to Dorchester Avenue during rush hour.
“One idea is that when you come up Old Colony Terrace you will have a choice of turning left or right where, right now, you must turn left,” she said. “However, neighbors to the right would be very unhappy because their quiet end of the neighborhood would get an increase in traffic.”
Anne Drury also has concerns about Playstead Road, where she lives, and parking on the bridge. Since Donovan’s Restaurant — now Savin Bar & Kitchen— opened, she said the bridge area has become a “safety hazard.”
“Before Donovan’s opened, there was never any parking allowed on the bridge,” she said.“ Once Donovan’s opened, all of a sudden it was allowed.”
Drury also mentioned the speed issue on Savin Hill Avenue and Sydney Street and the danger it brings to both drivers and pedestrians. A number of commuters also use her street as a parking lot for the day, she says.
“They park here for the day, take the T and people who live here have a difficult time finding a place to park,” she said.
Maureen Marotta notices rush hour traffic from Morrissey Boulevard to Old Colony Terrace, using Savin Hill Avenue by the tennis courts. Creating an alternative path will “alleviate” traffic on the hill,” she says.
“I think if cars were allowed to take a right off of Old Colony Terrace onto Savin Hill Avenue, making that portion to the bridge one way, it would take the burden off the bulk of the Savin Hill neighborhood and perhaps alleviate some of the dangers of the Playstead to Denny stretch,” she said.
Baker said the city cannot install speed bumps since they will impede emergency vehicles. But Baker said the city is considering reducing the speed limit on side streets, which is currently 30 mph. He said 25 mph. is on the table, but thinks that the speed limit should be no more than 10 or 15.
“Every meeting I go to, there are complaints about people driving too fast and crosswalks needing to be repainted and people want more stop signs,” he said. “But sometimes the city can’t just put them any place by law.”