Route 9 crossing gets green light

Brookline's Route 9 Crossing concept. The Union has recommended that the radius of the right turn from Pond Ave to Route 9 be narrowed with paint or bollards to slow traffic making the turn, and that a loop or microwave detector be used on the path to detect bikes early, and thus reduce waiting times for cyclists at the light.

A committee of handpicked town officials and residents made a call on the future of one of the remaining gaps in the Emerald Necklace last week, putting the signalization and reconstruction of the park’s much-lamented bike/ped path crossing of Route 9 on the fast track, and setting a tone for a host of other changes to come.

The concept for the short term changes to the crossing, first presented at a June 6 meeting in Brookline’s Town Hall, includes new bike/pedestrian pathway segments through tiny slivers of the park on both sides of Route 9 and a signalized crosswalk over Route 9 itself, including a widened median and expanded waiting area within it that would allow waiting room for a half-dozen bicycles or more.

The crossing has long been on the top priority list for bicyclists in Jamaica Plain and points south, though due to the crossing’s location in the Town of Brookline none of those residents, nor the Boston Cyclists Union, were given any representation on the committee. As a result, the vote on the final concept was held during the same meeting wherein the public first laid eyes on it, leaving little room for thoughtful public comment. On the positive side, the current plan is still in the conceptual stage, and input will still be gathered when funding is found and the 100 percent design process begins.

Though progress on the short term plan for the crossing appeared to be universally supported, not all bicycle advocates were entirely pleased with longer term ideas expressed in the concept, which seemed to rule out two ideas that advocates had hoped would stitch together the dismembered park: A proposed closure of Netherlands Road to through traffic, and a proposed narrowing of River Road to create more parkland and a wide shared use path.

“This plan shows a lack of vision,” said Jamaica Plain’s Jeffrey Ferris, a well known advocate and bike shop owner. “I recommend voting yes on the Route 9 crossing part of the plan, but no on the rest.”

In the case of Netherlands Road’s connection to the Riverway (also known as Parkway Road on some maps), the Town of Brookline’s consultants used projections of future traffic increases to predict a need to install a new right-hand turn lane on Riverway for motorists turning onto Brookline Avenue. But the creation of this new turning lane would require taking land from the Emerald Necklace, an idea that park advocates roundly objected to.

In an attempt to question the need for a right-hand turn lane at the location, the Boston Cyclists Union submitted a letter questioning the consultant’s traffic projections and requesting a second opinion from the state’s Central Transportation Planning Staff—-a service offered free to towns and cities in the Commonwealth–but the Town of Brookline never acknowledged the letter.

On River Road, the traffic increase projections also spurred a recommendation that the street remain two-way, and maintaining parking in the plan was explained as necessary because local businesses “expressed the need” for it, though no parking study was conducted to measure its capacity or the nature of its use.

On the positive side of the ledger for cyclists, the new plan did call for eliminating the off-ramp from the Riverway onto River Road, thus lowering the chance of conflict and crashes there. Netherlands Road would also become one-way southbound under the plan.

After several advocates spoke in favor of the crossing, but disapproved of the rest of the plan, the committee unanimously voted to approve it but added the qualification that it could be revised in the future.

“This is about a study done at a certain time with a complete understanding that changes happen over time,” said Selectwoman Jesse Mermell, head of the committee.

The request for funding for the reconstruction of the Route 9 crossing will now be sent into the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) process. If funding is approved, a more detailed planning process will begin and many observers predict between three and five years before construction on the Route 9 signalization project begins.

4 comments to Route 9 crossing gets green light

  • Rebecca Albrecht

    Thank you for the update & for being part of the process. As a resident of Brookline I really appreciate having knowledgeable people speak up at these meetings. I get very frustrated at the non-supportive recalcitrant business community here.

  • Josh

    I’m a Mission Hill resident and I’m quite familiar with this intersection. I support a the placement of a light here for the protection of cyclists. I have a problem with eliminating the “River Road” link from Rt. 9 west to the Riverway south. That short street is an important link to accessing the Riverway.

  • Patrick

    Nice, I was biking through here for the fist time the other day and thought why is there not a crossing here? Good work to who ever took part in getting this done.

  • FK

    @Josh I got infuriated about the Riverway ramp at first also (I am FROM Brookline and it is critical), but then I saw that the text referred to the “off” ramp… I don’t know if this is an error and they mean both the on and off ramp or just the off ramp part. If it’s only the latter, it’s no big deal since no one ever uses that as it gets you nowhere that taking a right onto Brookline Ave doesn’t. The onramp is an essential access point, though. I used to ride that route every single day (though due to crossing issues I often just rode on the eastern sidewalk of the Riverway and crossed east of that bridge, where Rt. 9 is also slightly more narrow). I think the main problem with that whole area on the Brookline side is that Rt. 9 is unnecessarily wide, the lanes could be narrowed a little and probably one on each side could be eliminated without a serious worsening of traffic. The wide road just makes people drive fast and aggressively. A light is an option but would cause more traffic. I do think it’s unfair for people to criticize the businesses on River Rd; I used to take my pets to that animal hospital and still use Brookline Ice and Coal all the time and parking is needed there. It’s just an unfortunate location.

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