With many residents frustrated over drivers careening down neighborhood side streets, some individuals and community groups are looking to the city’s Neighborhood Slow Streets program for relief.
The traffic-calming initiative transforms multi-block zones into reduced-speed areas to improve roadway safety. One month, until March 24, remains for 2017 applications.
The Slow Streets zones, which are meant to include areas of 10 to 15 blocks, use visual and physical cues in an effort to slow drivers to 20 miles per hour. “The program emphasizes quick-install and low-cost fixes, such as signage, pavement markings, and speed humps,” the city said in a January announcement.
Dorchester is already testing the waters in the Talbot-Norfolk area, with a pilot Boston Transportation Department community process giving way to final design stages, according to department spokeswoman Tracey Ganiatsos.
Transportation officials are tweaking the plan based on feedback, she said, and implementation of the Talbot Norfolk Triangle Neighborhood Slow Streets project, as well as the Stonybrook project in Jamaica Plain, will take place this year.
“From application to implementation, a full community process is incorporated into the Neighborhood Slow Streets program to give neighbors new opportunities to work in partnership with the city to improve safety in their neighborhoods,” Boston Transportation Department Commissioner Gina Fiandaca said in a statement. “When these projects are completed, we expect to see slower speeds and happier residents.”
The city broadened the scope of the initiative in January, welcoming neighborhoods to apply for the program by late March. A community process and initial design work on selected applications will begin later in 2017.
On Tuesday morning, Ganiatsos said that the department had not yet received formal applications, though it has heard from residents who plan to submit proposals.
Ken Lynch of the John W. McCormack Civic Association told the organization at its monthly meeting on Tuesday evening that a group of neighbors had submitted an application for the area of the Polish Triangle, with some of the roads including Roseclair, St. Margaret, Boston, and Mayhew streets.
“So, we have kids. I have children,” said Lynch, a Roseclair Street resident. “And the kids cross the street to get to school. It’s a concern that’s been expressed by all my neighbors.”
Other meeting members highlighted streets where drivers zoom along above the posted speed limits, such as Mt. Vernon and Harvest streets.
In selecting neighborhoods to join the program (there is no current estimate as to how many zones will be chosen) officials will account for factors like site crash history, the number of youths and older adults living in the neighborhood, and proximity to schools, parks, and community centers.
Applicants can bolster their case with letters of support from civic groups, neighbors, and elected representatives. Shane Pac with City Councillor Frank Baker’s office said they would support the application.
State Rep. Dan Hunt noted that transportation and traffic regularly consume discussions across the commonwealth. “This is the number one complaint I see at the 15 civic associations that are in the district that I represent,” he said. “And for the 36 years that I’ve lived in Dorchester and Boston... it’s always been an issue.”
He lauded Councillor Baker as “a tour de force” on the traffic issue, having pushed for the now-implemented 25 mile-per-hour city speed limit. The Slow Streets initiative, in carving out entire neighborhood zones with consistent signage and speed-mitigating measures, complements those efforts, Hunt said.
“I think the Menino administration made some great strides, but I think the mayor’s office has really spent a lot of time figuring out the best way to do it, and they’ve tried to do a number of things responding to people who want one-way streets or certain signage and it’s only created other problems,” Hunt said. “The mayor this time around dedicated some serious dollars to taking a real smart look at it.”
Other Dorchester groups are mulling participation in the program. Some Savin Hill residents have been meeting to refine an application, said Ryan Murphy. After reaching out for the city for clarification, he said, the group is gathering signatures and plans to present the proposal to the Columbia-Savin Hill Civic Association and the C-11 police district for approval.
The Hancock Street Civic Association discussed the program earlier in February. Civic president Marti Glynn said the scale of the application radius would require extensive collaboration with other nearby civic groups, which could be difficult within the time frame given, and it is unlikely they will move forward with the application.
“Community groups are encouraged to submit applications with whatever information they have available and we will contact them for more details as necessary,” Ganiatsos said in an email. “Residents are also reminded that it is an annual program and we plan to accept new applications each year, so there will be further opportunities to get involved in the program.”