Plans to improve Route 9 crossing have new legs

The Emerald Necklace path crossing at Route 9 on the Brookline-Boston border. This drawing reflects early concepts in Brookline's Gateway Plan, which previously included the crossing.

The crossing over Route 9 for cyclists traveling down the Emerald Necklace has been a point of contention for decades. And though we’re a new organization, many of us remember when illicitly added asphalt ramps were what got you over the median—until the city inadvertently scraped them off again during winter snowplowing.

That’s why we’re excited to hear that the Town of Brookline has decided to devote $40,000 of a community block grant toward a new design for the intersection. It doesn’t quite cover the cost of a 25% design, however, so the town is still looking for ways to leverage the money.

In fact, the town of Brookline already does have a design that could be used to access a $600,000 federal earmark for construction won by Congressman Michael Capuano, but some advocates are clamoring for an even safer design rather than going forward with the one on the shelf.

The current design includes crosswalks with flashing lights, a slightly shorter crossing distance, and a wider median in the middle to provide a refuge that you can fit a bike in.

The ideas that a handful of Brookline bike advocates are asking the town to explore anew include upgrading the flashing lights to a full red light that changes when a button is pressed, adding a path along the Route 9 bridge (that would require some entry and off ramp crossings), or building a more expensive stand alone pedestrian bridge.

Because of the cost, the latter is seen as the least likely option, and some have doubts about a Jamaicaway Bridge option as it would mean climbing a hill and crossing both an on and off ramp to the highway-like Jamaicaway. And even if either of those options were built, it may be that the straight crossing would still need to be addressed because many, it would seem, would still prefer it.

Whatever the outcome, the Union is getting involved in order to bring even more attention to the need for improvements, make sure all the options are explored, and to help motivate the City of Boston to become an active partner in the effort.

The DCR jurisdiction for all the crossings and paths being looked at in a new DCR/Emerald Necklace Conservancy planning effort.

There is also a new effort led by the Emerald Necklace Conservancy and the Department of Conservation and Recreation that will look at crossings along the length of the Necklace, with the goal of coming up with some standard treatments. The consultant on the project is Pressley Associates, a landscaping firm with little experience designing progressive bike paths and crossings, but Joseph Orfant of the DCR committed to having “in-house” engineers participate in the project to augment that deficiency. Alta Planning and Design, a firm with a Boston office that has vast experience with bike paths and lanes also bid on the project but was not chosen.

The first existing conditions presentation in that study can be found here.

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