Van Driver Kills One Pedestrian, Injures Another In Summer Street Bridge Crosswalk

The crosswalk on Summer Street at the Melcher Street intersection, where a driver hit two pedestrians, killing one, on the evening of Sept. 11, 2019.
The crosswalk on Summer Street at the Melcher Street intersection, where a driver hit two pedestrians, killing one, on the evening of Sept. 11, 2019.

Boston Police report that a van driver struck two pedestrians in a crosswalk on Summer Street in the Fort Point neighborhood Wednesday evening, killing one.

Secondhand witness accounts suggest that the van driver may have been turning left from Melcher Street onto Summer Street, towards downtown Boston, when they struck the two pedestrians in the crosswalk.

The crash site lies just beyond the extents of the recent Summer Street complete streets improvement project. While the section of Summer Street east of Melcher now features highly visible crosswalks and protected bike lanes, the Summer Street Bridge did not receive any safety improvements, and still has unusually wide travel lanes for motor vehicles.

StreetsblogMASS board member Tony Dutzik, who travels through the intersection regularly, reports that the traffic signal there recently changed from offering an exclusive pedestrian phase – giving vehicles a red light while pedestrians had a walk signal in all directions – to a “leading pedestrian interval” (LPI) walk signal, where pedestrians get a head start of a few seconds before the light turns green for vehicles.

In a visit to the crash site Thursday, several turning vehicles with the green light could be observed weaving around pedestrians using the crosswalk with a walk signal:

A motorist headed downtown from Melcher Street in the Fort Point neighborhood weaves around pedestrians on Sept. 12, 2019, in the same crosswalk where another motorist killed a pedestrian the night before. The City of Boston recently eliminated an exclusive pedestrian walk phase at this traffic signal.
A motorist headed downtown from Melcher Street in the Fort Point neighborhood weaves around pedestrians on Sept. 12, 2019, in the same crosswalk where another motorist killed a pedestrian the night before. The City of Boston had recently eliminated an exclusive pedestrian walk phase at this traffic signal.

Update from Friday Sept. 13:
The Boston Globe and others report that city officials are adjusting the traffic signal phasing at the intersection, such that vehicles turning downtown from Melcher Street will no longer get a green light while pedestrians have a walk sign on the Summer Street crosswalk.

“This crash is incredibly upsetting and is a terrible tragedy, and my heart goes out to the victims involved, and their family and friends,” said Mayor Marty Walsh in a statement emailed to StreetsblogMASS. “In Boston, we take seriously our responsibility to keep safe everyone who travels on our streets. At this intersection, a plan is underway to further improve safety, and we are going to continue doing the work needed to get to zero roadway fatalities across the entire city, and make sure that every person who uses our roadways is safe.”

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