By Dan Murphy
Under the auspices of the Beacon Hill Traffic and Parking Committee, the neighborhood has applied to participate in the city’s “Neighborhood Slow Streets” program.
Each year, residents, neighborhood associations and other community-based organizations can apply for traffic calming in a specific neighborhood. Selected neighborhoods will work with the Boston Transportation Department and the Public Works Department to identify problems and design effective solutions.
Traffic-calming elements and safety improvements, including signage, pavement markings, speed humps, “daylighting” and other quickly installed, inexpensive remedies, will be proposed to prompt drivers to slow to 20 mph. But rather than implementing changes on one street at a time, the program addresses an entire “zone” within a neighborhood, which typically consist of 10 to 15 blocks.
According to Ben Starr, committee chair, the application proposes two “zones,” the first of which includes the flat of Beacon Hill, where River Street splits at Mt. Vernon Street and runs one way north toward Pinckney Street and one way south where it crosses the intersection of Chestnut and Beacon streets. Hill House sits on the northwest corner of Mt. Vernon and River streets, and the Park Street School and The Advent School are located within two blocks of this intersection along Brimmer Street to the southwest and northwest, respectively.
“As such, there are young children all around Mt. Vernon Street every day of the week, particularly in the early morning and late afternoons,” Starr wrote. “While Mt. Vernon Street is relatively busy as a result of it being a two connection between Storrow Drive (and Mugar Way) to its west and Charles Street (to its north), there is also the issue that drivers (many of whom now made aware from mapping apps) now employ River Street heading south to get to Beacon to go west rather than head through two traffic signals on Charles Street. Additionally, River Street running north is really an alleyway yet it is often employed by drivers who need to circle back around to Brimmer Street.”
The second proposed zone includes the very top of Beacon Hill, where Mt. Vernon Street (one way heading west) meets Joy Street, which runs one way in either direction (north toward Cambridge Street or south toward Beacon Street).
“This is the heaviest traffic on the inside of the Beacon Hill neighborhood, chiefly as a result of all the traffic forced south on Upper Hancock to Mt. Vernon because Derne, Myrtle and Hancock streets are all one way and meet together at the back northwest corner of the State House,” Starr wrote. “Beyond simply the heavy traffic at this spot, heavier today as a result of mapping apps encouraging drivers to cut over Beacon Hill, drivers see a green light at Joy and Beacon streets and speed south on Joy to make the light; or if they plan to head west on Beacon, they go past Joy Street to avoid the light they speed down Walnut where there is no light at Beacon; or those heading toward Charles Street head down Mt. Vernon Street at too high a rate of speed; or trucks that have mistakenly made it into Beacon Hill are confronted with a sign at Mt. Vernon and Joy streets that alerts them that no trucks should be on these streets which forces them south on Joy Street.”
Starr said there are also additional issues on Derne Street, particularly at Temple Street.
According to the Transportation Department, each application will be objectively evaluated based on community support, as evidenced by letters of support, a presentation, signed petitions, surveys, and/or neighborhood reports or audits; the percentage of households with children under 18, the percentage of population aged 65 and older; the presence of schools, parks, community centers, libraries and public housing; the proximity to rail transit and bus routes; identified walking or bicycling routes to schools or other bicycle routes identified in master plans; crash history, including total number of crashes and number of crashes that resulted in fatal or serious injuries; clear, strong boundaries to the neighborhood zone; geographic diversity of selected neighborhoods; and the feasibility of the city to implement improvements
The program is currently implemented in Dorchester and Jamaica Plain, and once a neighborhood is selected, planning, design and construction is expected to take approximately two years to complete, city official said.