New “Safety Surge” initiative will bring traffic-calming infrastructure to every neighborhood in Boston
Today, Mayor Michelle Wu and Chief of Streets Jascha Franklin-Hodge announced the City’s Safety Surge, a new street safety program designed to curb speeding, reduce crashes, and make neighborhoods more comfortable and safer for walking, biking, and driving. The Safety Surge invests in the installation of zones of speed humps on eligible neighborhood streets, the redesign of intersections for safety, and new guidelines for the City’s traffic signals to slow down traffic on residential streets and reduce conflicts between drivers, pedestrians, and bike riders. Today’s announcement builds on Mayor Wu’s commitment to ensure all modes of transportation are safe on Boston’s streets and to make Boston the best City in the country to raise a family. The plan for speed hump implementation was first announced last fall with an expansion of the City’s bike network.
“As our City grows, we must act with urgency to make our streets safe for everyone,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “All across the City, residents are worried about speeding cars that make it unsafe for kids to play in front yards or seniors to cross the street. By redesigning intersections and roadways, and improving traffic signals, we will help people get around while making sure our community members are safe.”
“We hear from residents every day about concerns with traffic safety and speeding in their neighborhoods,” said Jascha Franklin-Hodge, Chief of Streets. “Parents walking their kids to the playground or older adults stopping by the corner store shouldn’t have to worry about speeding drivers or fear for their safety when crossing the street. We believe that this comprehensive approach puts us on the path to bring that sense of safety to streets across Boston.”
“I have long advocated that pedestrian safety is one of the top issues we face, and that speeding cars are a public health emergency in the City of Boston. It will require traffic calming infrastructure to force cars to slow down in our neighborhoods and protect all neighbors- including our seniors, persons with disabilities, and young children,” said Council President Ed Flynn. “With the inclusion of speed hump zones, safer intersections, and traffic signals focused on pedestrian safety, the Safety Surge will help make our streets safer for all. Thank you to Mayor Wu for her leadership, and I will continue to work with the City, my neighbors, and colleagues to advocate for infrastructure to force speeding cars to slow down.”
Fatal pedestrian crashes statewide increased by 35 percent between 2021 and 2022, according to a report released in March. While serious crashes in Boston are down, nearly 3,300 crashes occurred in Boston last year resulting in eight fatalities, according to data from Boston Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and the Boston Police Department (BPD). A recent analysis conducted by Boston EMS and MIT researchers showed that a child is struck by a car while walking or biking on average once every four days in Boston.
“Unsafe road design is creating fatal consequences for communities across the Commonwealth. The sharp rise in fatal crashes is extremely troubling, but we’re grateful that Mayor Wu and the Streets Cabinet are responding today with urgency,” said Brendan Kearney, Deputy Director of Advocacy for WalkMassachusetts. “In the City of Boston, speed humps were first introduced as a tool in the Neighborhood Slow Streets pilot program. Speed humps have been so popular, they will now be a proactive part of design. Boston is leading on making streets safer for everyone, and we hope that other communities and state agencies will follow this example.”
The Mayor’s Fiscal Year 24 budget proposal includes more than $12 million to fund new safety investments as part of the Safety Surge. Mayor Wu made today’s announcement at the Thetford Evans Playground, located in an area that had speed humps installed in 2022.
The three key components of the Safety Surge are as follows:
NEIGHBORHOOD SPEED HUMPS PROGRAM
A simple street tool like a speed hump can reduce car speeds and create calmer neighborhood streets and a more comfortable environment for those who walk or bike. As part of the Safety Surge, the City will plan, design, and build ten speed hump zones each year. The zones for the first three years of the program have been identified and can be found at this link.
Of the nearly 800 miles of City streets, 394 miles are potentially eligible for this program. Zones are made up of small, connected areas of streets and are prioritized based on demographic information and crash history. Speed humps are safe for vehicles and encourage driving at speeds of no more than 20-25 miles per hour. Major arterials and roads carrying MBTA bus routes are not appropriate for speed humps and will not be included in this program.
Residents will be able to use a map to see which streets are eligible for this program and the zones that will be constructed during the first three year phase. The map will be updated as each construction phase is determined. To support this program, the City has issued a Speed Humps Policy and Design Directive that formalizes guidelines for where and how speed humps should be installed in Boston.
As part of the Safety Surge, the City will design 25-30 intersections each year using street safety tools that will allow for better sightlines, slower speeds, clearer crossings, and defined spaces for all road users.
These intersections will be prioritized based on safety history; neighborhood demographics including the number of children, older adults, and people with a disability; proximity to parks, schools, and community centers; plans for repaving and ramp construction; and needs otherwise identified by the residents of the neighborhood.
TRAFFIC SIGNAL GUIDELINES
The Boston Transportation Department (BTD) has updated the City’s Traffic Signals Operations Design Policy with the goal of reducing dangerous conflicts between pedestrians and vehicles and improving the overall comfort of pedestrians and turning drivers. The City aims to update at least 50 intersections a year using the new guidelines.
Last updated in 2018, the guidelines emphasize pedestrian safety by giving more time to crossing pedestrians and changes to reduce high-risk turns. Changes include:
Increased use of pedestrian head starts (giving pedestrians time to start crossing before drivers can go).
Increased use of “No Turn on Red” regulations and signage in high pedestrian locations.
Increased use of “auto recall” where pedestrians get a WALK sign automatically without having to request it.
No Turn on Red in particular will be used in downtown and neighborhood business districts, when crossing shared use paths or separated bike lanes, and near schools, senior centers, parks, libraries, mass transit stations, and hospitals.
In addition to the neighborhood streets included in the Safety Surge, the City is undertaking separate major corridor projects to improve safety in locations with a history of excessive speeds and crashes that have resulted in death and injury.
Some projects include:
The City is currently engaged in a public process to improve transit and support all modes of travel along Blue Hill Ave. A major focus of the project will be to improve pedestrian safety. This will include improved crosswalks, shorter cross distances, and better signal timing.
Centre Street Safety Project, West Roxbury
The City will implement vital safety improvements along Centre Street in West Roxbury from the West Roxbury Parkway to Lagrange Street to address the ongoing history of fatal and serious injury crashes on this street. The City will soon engage with West Roxbury residents to address local concerns such as preserving parking and gather feedback on the safety redesign. The preliminary design includes:
- Reducing Centre Street from four vehicle travel lanes to three (creating one lane in each direction with turn lanes).
- Reducing pedestrian crossing distances and increasing visibility at both signalized and unsignalized crosswalks.
- Retiming signals to increase pedestrian safety and reduce risk posed by turning vehicles.Cummins
Cummins Highway is among the most crash-prone corridors in the City. It will be redesigned in response to clearly stated community priority for safety, with shorter and safer crosswalks, better bus stops, new street lights, and dedicated space for bicycling. The project will also add trees and other green infrastructure, public art, and places for people to sit.
Currently under construction, changes are being made to improve pedestrian safety and accessibility at every crosswalk on Tremont Street between Massachusetts Avenue and Arlington Street. The work includes raised crosswalks, changes to traffic signals, repaving the street, dedicated space for bicycling, improved bus boarding areas, and changes to curb regulations to support businesses and residents.
More details about the street safety program and details on each section can be found here.
Maureen Dahill is the editor of Caught in Southie and a lifelong resident of South Boston sometimes mistaken for a yuppie. Co-host of Caught Up, storyteller, lover of red wine and binge watching TV series. Mrs. Peter G. Follow her @MaureenCaught.
Traffic calming? Traffic jams have become horrible and the ever empty bus lanes take half of driving space.