Our Streets Already Slow? Officials Reject Slow Streets Application

By Seth Daniel

A grass-roots group of residents in the Monument Avenue area are disappointed this week after having learned that their application was not accepted into the City’s first round of Neighborhood Slow Streets (NSS) districts, but already are organizing a stronger network throughout the Town to apply for next year.

Five areas were announced as the initial winners of the program two weeks ago by Mayor Martin Walsh’s administration in what became an extremely popular and competitive program.

There were 47 entries citywide, including two for Charlestown, but only five were chosen – not of which were on this side of the City.

The five neighborhoods that will work with the Boston Transportation and Public Works Departments include Chinatown, Grove/ Quincy Corner, Highland Park (Roxbury), Mount Hope/Canterbury and West of Washington Coalition (Dorchester).

The Monument Avenue application – led by residents Amy Carlson, Arthur Colpack and Mike Mickelson – finished 16th out of 47, which they said helped quell the disappointment with not be chosen. A second Charlestown proposal from the Charlestown Neighborhood Council for Chappie Street did not score very well and finished near the bottom of the list.

“We congratulate the five areas selected for this year’s NSS program,” said Carlson. “The large number of applications submitted to NSS this year reflects the widespread concern and seriousness of traffic and pedestrian safety issues in the city of Boston. We are, of course, disappointed that our neighborhood was not chosen this year, yet are very pleased that our application ranked 16th out of the 47 entries. We were fortunately able to score a large number of points for the area our application covered due to the letters of support we received as well as the number of community places and proximity to active rail and bus routes.”

The Neighborhood Slow Streets program is a community-based effort to reduce speeds and improve the quality of life on Boston’s local streets. The Boston Transportation Department (BTD) received applications from 47 different communities across 16 of Boston’s neighborhoods.

“So many communities stepped up to partner with the City on this important work,” said Chris Osgood, Chief of Streets and Acting Commissioner of Public Works. “Providing a clear, simple way to participate and a transparent selection process are examples of the ways that we continue to embrace the ethos of Go Boston 2030 as we implement that plans many projects and polices.”

The NSS program had a very specific scoring protocol and methodology in figuring out which application to choose. Boston Transportation Department (BTD) used objective criteria that included the number of households with youth under 18, the percentage of the population aged 65 or older, the number of crashes per mile within the area, and the presence of parks, libraries, and transit.

While the Monument Avenue proposal did not rank very high in terms of fatalities or serious injuries – such as those that were picked did – it did score very high on the numbers of people and organizations that signed the petition and expressed specific concerns to the City.

“The residents, local organizations, and businesses who wrote letters of support as well as the individual residents who signed and wrote their specific traffic and/or pedestrian safety concerns on our petition were probably the most integral part the application process,” said Carlson. “The feedback that we received was overwhelming. There is a great amount of community concern about the need to improve traffic and pedestrian safety in Charlestown. Though it did not add points to our final score, the anecdotal evidence that was gathered and submitted in the application about accidents and near misses was significant and powerful.”

When completed, the selected Neighborhood Slow Streets areas will be equipped with visual and physical cues to slow drivers to 20 MPH, making each street feel more inviting for people of all ages who are walking, playing, or bicycling.

Carlson said the program limited applicants to just a 10 to 15 block radius, and she believes that one large application for Charlestown would be in good order. She said they would be working on an application for next year’s round. “My hope is that now that more residents and community organizations are aware of the NSS program, residents from all areas within Charlestown will organize themselves to work on completing applications for next year’s NSS selection process,” she said.

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