With bicycle and motor vehicle crashes all-too common on the Boston University campus this semester, the focus now shifts from Commonwealth Avenue to Massachusetts Avenue. A slew of pedestrian accidents along Mass. Ave. near the new BU School of Public Health facilities has raised questions about the safety of the thoroughfare for the thousands of students and faculty who use it each day. More than just an important link to the BU Medical Campus facilities, Mass. Ave. is possibly the most important road in the Boston metro area. The city should take safety along the avenue seriously and spend the money needed to prevent pedestrian injuries.
The cause of pedestrian accidents near the new SPH seems to stem from two main problems. First, the new facilities bring increased foot traffic to an area that was previously an open lot. Second, and the more addressable issue, reports indicate that traffic signals and crosswalk signals are timed incorrectly, resulting in periods in which one signal advises pedestrian to cross the street while another allows traffic to flow in those lanes.
Though the SPH intersection in question involves both Mass. Ave. and Albany Street, another high-volume urban artery, the same issues can be found at most Mass. Ave. crossings. Mistimed signals, as well as confusing turning lanes and lengthy crosswalks contribute to an often risky crossing for pedestrians along the avenue.
Mass. Ave. spans 10 cities and towns, connecting major neighborhoods of Boston, Cambridge, Dorchester and Lexington. With vehicle connections to the Massachusetts Turnpike and pedestrian access to some of Boston’s most walked neighborhoods, the city would do well to invest in the road. Initiatives as simple as implementing new, synchronized signals and as advanced as building pedestrian overpasses at the avenue’s most dangerous intersections would reflect well on the city’s commitment to walkability.
Though projects like these can be expensive, especially for a cash-strapped municipality, officials should do as much as possible to free up funds to address this safety issue. There are a lot of wasteful and expensive initiatives in Boston that squander taxpayer funds and build an environment of stagnancy over real action. The city should examine at its programs and projects and re-prioritize its efforts to address safety issues such as Mass. Ave. After all, a safer infrastructure will result in a more accessible and more prosperous Boston.