By Mary Kate Feeney
FRAMINGHAM – Not a week goes by without reports of serious car accidents in Framingham. From Edgell Road to Winthrop Street, drivers have caused accidents due to speed or dangerous intersections.
Traffic is the top issue affecting every part of Framingham.
Fortunately, our Charter created a unique opportunity for us to address these issues by establishing the Traffic Commission. The citizen-driven Traffic Commission can adopt, amend or repeal any rules or regulations regarding traffic on Framingham-owned roads.
Now is the time for the Traffic Commission to take bold measures that will set our community up for safer streets, less congestion and improved quality of life.
Vision Zero is an international transportation initiative aimed at reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries from traffic crashes to zero.
As of 2017, Boston, Cambridge and Somerville have endorsed Vision Zero and have action plans outlining on how each community will reach this goal. It is time for Framingham to endorse this initiative and start crafting its action plan.
To start, I encourage the Traffic Commission to implement the following:
Reduce the default community-wide speed limit to 25 mph: As I drive or walk around my neighborhood of Pheasant Hill, sometimes I feel like I’m on the Autobahn as cars speed down the hills. Our streets need to be safe for cars, pedestrians and cyclists alike. Reducing the speed limit is the easiest way to achieve it. A study released in August 2018 by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported after Boston reduced their default speed limit to 25 mph, the odds of speeding fell by 8.5% for cars exceeding 30 mph and 29.3% for cars exceeding 35 mph.
Install speed feedback signage: Installing feedback signs in high traffic areas are an effective way to remind drivers of how fast they are actually going and to slow down.
Engage the neighborhoods: Each neighborhood has its specific concerns and issues. Meetings in the neighborhoods would give Commissioners the chance to hear directly from residents and learn what is priority in that area. Engaging the neighborhood also provides equity to our traffic concerns, giving each part of Framingham the opportunity to have their voices heard.
Establish a Slow Streets Program: Used by many cities, a slow streets program uses traffic calming tools and techniques, such as speed tables, sidewalk curb extensions and roadway markings, to reduce speeds in defined areas, which may include high pedestrian activity zones or small neighborhood streets now identified as shortcuts by Waze. These tools should be considered, in consultation with residents, when the city drafts plans for work on priority roads.
The safety of our streets depends on us, not only as drivers to follow traffic laws, but as neighbors encouraging our city government to use proven best practices to achieve Vision Zero.
We owe it to ourselves and future generations.
Mary Kate Feeney, a lifelong resident of Pheasant Hill, is a former aide to Governor Deval L. Patrick.