The Transformation of Centre Street in West Roxbury: Safer for All
A significant project is currently underway on Centre Street in West Roxbury, led by a contractor hired by BTD (Boston Transportation Department). The initial phase of this project involves the removal of pedestrian crossings as part of the larger plan to reconfigure the road. Ultimately, Centre Street will be transformed from its current four car travel lanes to two, with the addition of new center turning lanes, dedicated bike lanes along the sidewalks, and improved pedestrian crossings. To ensure the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists, parked cars will act as a protective barrier between these designated lanes and the flow of traffic.
City officials emphasize that this endeavor aims to create a safer environment not only for pedestrians and bicyclists but also for motorists. They believe this will be achieved by reducing speeding, preventing accidents involving bicyclists and motorcyclists, and minimizing the risk of “double threat” collisions, where a driver stops to yield to a pedestrian, only to witness a vehicle in the adjacent lane striking them. Additionally, the reconfiguration is expected to enhance convenience for motorists making left turns.
Despite the positive intentions behind this project, there are opponents who have voiced their concerns. They have scattered orange-and-yellow protest signs throughout the neighborhood, expressing their discontent with external influences, including individuals from Cambridge, imposing their vision for West Roxbury. Some opponents argue that if bicyclists followed traffic signals, there would be fewer concerns necessitating such drastic changes.
Over the next two to three weeks, DeRoma Construction, the contracted workers, will focus on ensuring that all the crosswalks and ramps meet ADA compliance standards. Subsequently, the milling and resurfacing of the road from Bellevue St. to Belgrade Ave. will commence, along with the marking of lanes to accommodate the new configuration.
The updated specifications for the road revamp include the allocation of four-foot wide bike lanes adjacent to the curb, separated from parking lanes by three-foot buffer strips. Furthermore, a dedicated left-turn lane will be introduced from Belgrade Avenue onto Centre Street. As part of the project, certain parking spaces along Centre Street will also undergo changes, transitioning from two- or four-hour spots to short-term parking spaces for pickup, drop-off, delivery, and loading operations. For instance, in front of take-out establishments near the intersection of Belgrade Avenue and Manthorne Street.
One noteworthy alteration for pedestrians is the elimination of push activation for pedestrian signals. Instead, pedestrians will receive “Walk” signals synchronized with green lights for crossing streets. To provide pedestrians with a head start, leading pedestrian intervals will be implemented. However, at Lagrange Street, pedestrians will still need to activate a crossing button.
The idea to revamp Centre Street initially emerged in 2019 following a tragic incident where a woman lost her life while crossing the road at the intersection depicted in the top photograph. However, the plans were retracted after a group of outraged West Roxbury residents launched a campaign, including anonymous mailings, warning residents of West Roxbury and Roslindale about the supposed “bicycle lobby” conspiring to “ruin our neighborhood.” The current administration, led by Mayor Wu, reinitiated the project earlier this year as part of a broader initiative to enhance safety on major roads citywide.
In July, conflicting rallies took place on Centre Street, with both opponents and proponents passionately expressing their views. The differing opinions were evident as one opponent unfurled a large “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.
For more information on the project’s details and updates, the Boston Transportation Department (BTD) provides an overview and regular updates.
Disclaimer: This article does not aim to provide an objective analysis of the project but rather presents information based on various sources and perspectives.