Editorial, Opinion

STAFF EDIT: A dangerous crossroad

Boston is notorious for it perilous roadways, the consequence of a hodge-podge transportation network designed for horse travel, most of it more than 300 years ago. Yet this problem is compounded by malfunctioning traffic signals and confusing signs.
The result of this poor planning was seen Wednesday when a three-car crash at the intersection of Park Drive and Beacon Street rattled South Campus and backed up traffic all the way to the St. Mary’s Street Bridge. Though the cause of the crash is still unclear, one thing is certain: the intersection, also known as Audubon Circle, is unsafe. The city should fix unsafe traffic lights and add turning lanes to ensure the safety of both motorists and pedestrians.
Audubon Circle is a complex four-lane intersection. For those making a right turn, there are small turning lanes, which still take the historical shape of the street’s old roundabout. For those making a left turn, however, there are no protections given to help cross the intersection. Many vehicles wait for seconds in the middle of the intersection for traffic in the oncoming lanes to break before making unprotected left turns.
Pedestrians are equally at risk. Those crossing Beacon Street must navigate three separate crosswalks, each of which has a signal light that turns on at different times. Sometimes the pedestrian signals falsely inform pedestrians that their path is protected, when, in fact, cars are allowed to turn left into their path.
But for such a complicated crossing, the solution is simple. A dedicated left-turn signal is necessary at this intersection, both to avoid exceedingly dangerous maneuvers by left-turners and to calm traffic in the perpendicular lanes. A left-turn lane may slow down traffic in the area, but that is, in fact, another necessity for traffic safety. Drivers are often disregarding the red light signals and recklessly blowing through the intersection after the fact. It’s a dangerous mix that can be addressed by a simple rethinking of how Audubon Circle works.
If something as simple implementing turning lanes isn’t possible at the intersection, then the city should do everything possible to calm traffic in the area. The construction in Kenmore Square is a frustrating problem for commuters, and the urge is high for drivers to step on the gas after clearing the delays. Drivers are speeding outbound down Beacon Street, creating an unsafe area for pedestrians to cross. Simply fixing the timing of the broken system of traffic and pedestrian traffic signals at Audubon Circle will go a long way to improving safety.

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