Proposal: Make Murray Circle Into Two Roundabouts

Proposal for changes to Murray Circle

Proposal for changes to Murray Circle. Credit: Toole Design Group

A historic overhaul of the Arborway could be in the works, with the aim of improving pedestrian and bike safety. This week the Department of Conservation and Recreation held two public meetings at the Arboretum where a design firm put out a “starter idea” that’s sure to get Jamaica Plain talking: Take the big rotary where Centre meets the Arborway and turn it into two roundabouts.

That’s just one of the big ideas floated this week. Resident Clay Harper attended both meetings and published an informative summary at his “Arborway Matters” blog.

Some residents might be surprised that such a radical change for automobile drivers could come out of meetings labeled “Arborway Bicycle Facilities.”

The area is infamous among drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians, for being dangerous. To take just the car wrecks, Harper reports there were 135 vehicle crashes in the study area between 2008-2012.

Here are the goals the DCR set for Toole Design Group, which is consulting on the project.

• Incorporate bicycle facilities

• Increase connectivity

• Improve comfort and safety for all users

• Reduce conflicts between all modes

• Increase predictability of each mode

• Maintain existing historic landscape

Right now, there’s no bicycle path from the Pond to the Casey Arborway (which will have improved bike facilities once that construction is done.) This project aims to close that gap.

Here’s one proposal for overhauling the area’s design:

Preliminary proposal for increased bike safety along the Arborway

Toole Design Group

Preliminary proposal for increased bike safety along the Arborway

If you missed the meetings, the state has posted detailed information about public input so far and the “starter idea.”

Feb. 3 presentation

Feb. 5 presentation: Part I, Part II and Part III.

The state set a deadline of March 6 to make comments on the proposal. Email them at and put “Arborway Bicycle Facilities” in the subject line.

Here again is that link to Clay Harper’s review of the proposal, which boils things down quite well.

  • Hugo_JP

    In traffic theory this may be a good idea for improving traffic flow, but in my experience of living here for the past couple of years, Bostonians don’t understand basic rotary etiquette and regulations.
    I don’t know how many times I’ve nearly been sideswiped by drivers who don’t know to yield upon entering a rotary or just choose to ignore the yield. So instead of the current single rotary we’ll have TWO rotaries where idiot drivers can do as they please?

    • Mark Tedrow

      Hugo, the old MDC traffic circles that we all love to hate are miserable for anyone, including locals, to navigate. The roundabouts proposed by Toole Design are far smaller and far more intuitive to navigate – they have much less pavement,in fact, they typically fit within the center islands of the MDC circles that they replace, leaving the former paved areas as new green space.
      The one local example shown in the 2nd part is in front of Union Station in Worcester. Take a drive out west and see how simple it really is.

      Mark Tedrow

  • patbilly

    In my experience, to keep traffic flowing East on Centre St., the existing double lane is needed to accommodate Arborway drivers and Centre St. drivers. The proposed design looks to be one which will confuse drivers and slow traffic significantly. Perhaps lane markers and more signage would work.

    Woe to all of us, with either design, when we meet the drivers who use both lanes at their whim. They’re the ones who cause the problems, and a double rotary will confound them more. Give me the J-way trained rush hour drivers any time.

  • Malena

    Sorry Mark T. but I’ve driven in the Union Station one in Worcester and it’s a nightmare especially if you are not familiar with the area. I don’t know how you can say that being a smaller circle makes it better – the state is full of small and large rotaries and the effect is the same – people either don’t know the etiquette or blatantly ignore it – they love to zoom in and not stop if there is even a minimal chance that they can do it without crashing into existing traffic. I’ve been trying to get used to the idea that we will not get a new bridge but this updated design makes me hate it all over again. What are they thinking????oh, yeah, they are not.

    • Clay Harper

      Just for clarity: the “starter idea” proposed by Toole Design Group as I understood them to say includes a number of details specifically designed to reduce vehicle speeds and increase safety if adopted. All entrances and exits to the roundabouts feature raised table-style crosswalks – effectively speed humps that calm traffic multiple times in the study area. The smaller roundabout radius compared to the existing rotary, with reduced sightlines thanks to more trees, should also tamp down typical vehicle speeds. The pedestrian refuge islands at these crosswalks “deflect” and steer vehicles towards specific lanes within the roundabouts, and those roundabout lanes are marked on the pavement.

  • AlanThinks

    I have driven in round-abouts installed in other cities, including ones with double lanes, and experienced them as intuitive and more efficient unlike the dangerous free-for-all rotary that exists here. As a daily cyclist and occasional pedestrian who passes through the Arborway rotary frequently I applaud this plan. It is efficient and balanced. The redesign will reduce traffic speed while allowing for more steady and continuous movement. This is accomplished in part by removing the stop lights. Please support it.

  • Clay Harper

    The deadline for public comment on DCR’s initial Arborway Bicycle Facilities proposal has been extended until March 20th.