City Streets Czar Chris Osgood on Hand for Civic Association’s 97th Annual Meeting

Chris Osgood, the city’s chief of streets, transportation and sanitation, served as the keynote speaker and provided his “Update on Boston’s Streets” during the Beacon Hill Civic Association’s 97th annual meeting on Monday, May 20, at the Union Club.

“Great cities aren’t developed by the government or the residents by themselves, but rather a collaboration between the two, as Mayor [Martin] Walsh says,” said Osgood, who lived on West Cedar Street as a young child and lauded Beacon Hill residents for walking and biking to work more than denizens of any other city neighborhood.

And as the city is reconstructing sidewalk pedestrian ramps and making traffic safety improvements on the Hill, Osgood said, “We want to take this opportunity to do the things you asked us to do and make the streets safer.”

Since three years ago when Walsh spearheaded “Vision Zero” – an initiative that aims to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries citywide by 2030 –  the number of incidents has been drastically reduced, Osgood said, dropping from 21 in 2016 to 14 the following year and 10 in 2018.

Osgood added that Walsh’s decision to reduce speed limits to 25 mph has also led to less vehicle collisions.

“There’s a clear correlation between speed and the number of crashes and the severity of crashes,” he said, “and it’s been proven that lower speeds reduce crashes and save lives.”

Osgood said the city is also now mapping out where most crashes take place to address the most dangerous intersections.

Traffic on side streets throughout the city have been exasperated in recent years by ride-share services like and Uber and Lyft, as well as other commuters who also rely on the GPS navigation app Wazes, Osgood acknowledged.

So in response, the city is considering introducing designated pick-up and drop-off spots for ride-share services throughout the city, depending on the success of a pilot program now underway that created two such sites on Boylston Street and in the Fenway, respectively, he said.

And since vehicles traveling to the city from the suburbs accounts for the majority of Boston traffic, Osgood suggested that increasing the frequency of often-staggered trains to and from the city on some MBTA lines could help alleviate this problem.

Also at the meeting, Russ Gaudreau, chair of the Beacon Award Nominating Committee, presented the 23rd annual Beacon Award to Ivy A. Turner for her “significant and sustained” contributions to the community.

“I was shocked when I heard I was receiving this award…and thought all I do is put up the decorations until I started to break down the numbers,” said Turner, a 30-year resident of Beacon Hill who, for nearly a quarter century, has spearheaded the effort to decorate the neighborhood’s gas-lamps for the holidays – an enduring campaign that has to date involved approximately 1,000 volunteers and adorned around 34,000 lamp-posts with “garlands and greens.”

Turner expressed her gratitude to Suzanne Besser, who previously served as the Civic Association’s executive director, as well as past chair, president and member of the board of directors; Mark Kiefer, another past board chair and president; and the organization’s Executive Director Patricia Tully, for their assistance in coordinating the decorating campaign over the years.

Also, Turner thanked Tom Kershaw, chairman of the Hampshire House Corporation, for “bestowing her with this responsibility,” as well as handing over the reins of the organization now known as the Beacon Hill Business Association to her nearly 25 years ago.

A classically trained cellist to boot, Turner helped conceive the “quartet-a-thon” in 2001 as part of the annual Beacon Hill Art Walk, both of which return to the neighborhood June 2.

Rob Whitney, president of the board of directors, recapped the Civic Association’s noteworthy achievements from the past year, including working with the city to improve accessibility in the neighborhood for people with disabilities, as well as establishing the $25,000 Community Fund grant program to lend financial assistance to other area nonprofits, among the group’s other accomplishments.

Under the auspices of the Planning and Oversight Committee, Whitney said the Civic Association sponsored a Town Hall in regard to Massachusetts General Hospital’s proposed $1 billion, 1,035,000-square-foot addition, and will continue to follow and advise on the progress of the project.

Whitney said the Civic Association would also provide its input when Suffolk University’s master plan comes up for renewal this fall.

Meanwhile, Eve Waterfall, chair of the Civic Association board, recognized Besser, who is stepping down from the Civic Association, for her enduring and tireless commitment to the Civic Association, as well as her “service to the community” over the last 20 years.           Furthermore, Waterfall extended gratitude on behalf of the Civic Association to Susan Symonds, owner of Beacon Street’s Infinity Portrait Design, for photographing the organization’s annual meeting every year pro bono.

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