Centre Street is a dangerous contradiction: on the one hand, it looks like a classic New England main street, with shops, restaurants, schools and churches. But dividing those pleasant sidewalks are four lanes of asphalt, clearly and disastrously designed to encourage high-speed traffic.
West Roxbury Main Streets, the neighborhood business organization, has been asking the city for traffic calming improvements since 2016, when a survey identified Centre Street's pedestrian-hostile design as a major barrier to foot traffic.
February's death galvanized West Roxbury residents and businesses to hold the Boston Transportation Department accountable to its "Vision Zero" policy. Neighbors formed a new organization, "West Roxbury Walks," and in May, they organizeda pedestrian safety audit of the residential portion of Centre Street, located between the village and the Arnold Arboretum.
After this winter's death, the city seems to be finally ready to discuss safety improvements. A public meeting to discuss Centre Street has been scheduled for June 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the Holy Name Parish School Gymnasium at 535 West Roxbury Parkway.
In an emailed statement, Tracey Ganiatsos, public affairs coordinator for the Boston Transportation Department, wrote that "at this time, our first priority is reviewing the current design of Centre Street between St. Theresa's Church and the rotary adjacent to the Holy Name School."
That's the one-mile-long heart of West Roxbury's commercial district, but it excludes the residential portion of Centre Street where West Roxbury neighbors conducted their safety audit.
Will Vincent, one of the founding members of West Roxbury Walks, is hopeful that the city will take a more holistic view.
"One of the challenges I’ve seen is how the city has lots of awesome segments of safe streets, but each one doesn’t connect well to the next," said Vincent in a phone interview last month. "It would frustrate me a little bit to see so much work put into the business district if the other half gets no improvements. Is the residential segment just going to remain the highway that it is now, or could we make the entire street safer, all the way to the Arboretum?"