One wonders what could be accomplished if this much political energy were spent on something more substantial than preserving a concrete traffic triangle for sidewalks that had already been bid. But that was the question at this afternoon’s Public Safety Committee meeting, where 75+ men, women and especially children were present for a final showdown over the fate of the triangle. It lost.
On one side were the (seeming) majority of stakeholders who want the sidewalk planned down the north side of Mayfair to Roxbury, where it will cross to the west side of the street and then to Huntington Road one block north. They brought their children to drive home their stance that the sidewalk will provide a safe path to play and walk to and from school. On the other were the triangle preservationists, who saw in the removal the city slowly chipping away at city charm and whose main spokesman, Chris Lane, originally objected to the sidewalk’s removal of trees on Mayfair. A discussion, with background but no public portion, was on the June Planning Commission agenda.
The presentation began with Greg Cobb showing a rendering of the proposed intersection modification, with the sidewalk crossing from Mayfair across Roxbury where the triangle used to be. A vestigial grassy area would be created there, planted in zoysia, and with a street light, according to the proposal. There would be a three-way stop. Fire Marshal Nickolas Hill concurred, saying firefighters would prefer all triangles to be eliminated in the city, along with speed bumps and any obstruction that delayed response time. Traffic consultant Darrell Skipper then explained that a T-shaped intersection was, in general, more safe than an island that increased “driver decision-making” about which way to go, or the number of points that cars could collide.
Moderator Alex Wyatt, one of the three committee members of five present (McClusky and Thames absent), allowed two speakers on each side to speak, then allowed any council member present to weigh in, which several did.
Councilman Peter Wright led the discussion through the options that had been eliminated, 1) Allowing the crosswalk to cross Roxbury north of the triangle (eliminated because the slope is steeper on the east side of the road), and crossing Roxbury through the triangle itself (eliminated due to lack of room).
During the public portion, Mr. Lane’s attorney Roger Lucas disputed that the traffic engineer had performed a safety study (he had not), and said no regular firefighters interviewed thought the triangle was unsafe. Another resident said the T-shaped intersection actually provided a reduced radius for fire engine turns, making it less safe.
Speaking in favor of the removal were two residents, who said they didn’t understand why the project was on hold now that the trees were removed and the project bid out. They both emphasized the need for children’s safety.
Concluding the session were council members Barry Smith, Jennifer Andress and Andrew Wolverton, all three speaking in favor of letting the sidewalk project–including the triangle removal–commence.
Committee members Wolverton, Wyatt and Andress then voted to recommend the item to the full council, which passed the measure at its regular 6 p.m. meeting.