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Starts & Stops

Yet another hazard for drivers on the Jamaicaway?

Joe Hohmann is worried about red oak trees falling down along the Jamaicaway. Joe Hohmann is worried about red oak trees falling down along the Jamaicaway. (Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff)
By Eric Moskowitz
Globe Staff / November 28, 2010

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Lots of people get nervous on the Jamaicaway, and with good reason. The narrow, four-lane roadway has plenty of curves and grade changes but no medians or dividers. Drivers routinely change lanes and stop suddenly for traffic lights and turning vehicles. To that harrowing combination, Joe Hohmann adds another cause for concern: rotting red oaks.

“It’s an accident waiting to happen,’’ said Hohmann, a Roslindale resident who has worked a half-century in the tree business and is worried about oaks toppling on the Jamaicaway. He has urged his wife to alter her regular route over the tree-lined road.

Last month, a hollowed-out oak fell on the hood of a minivan and grazed a truck on the Jamaicaway. The accident was documented by the Jamaica Plain Patch website but did not gain wider media attention because no one was seriously injured. But the driver “missed getting killed by about a second,’’ Hohmann said.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation, which manages the parkway, called the accident an “act of God’’ brought about by heavy winds. Hohmann called it an “act of negligence.’’

He said he walked the route after the tree came down and counted 30 red oaks, mostly between Pond and Perkins streets, that he considers poised for collapse in an ice storm or stiff wind. Untreated dents and wounds from car-on-tree crashes have made the oaks vulnerable to insect feasts and internal decay, which is only partially discernible to the casual observer, he said.

“These things are hanging on by a thread,’’ said Hohmann. A month shy of 77, he retains the sturdy build and no-nonsense demeanor from his years with the Navy Underwater Demolition Team, a precursor to the SEALs. (Hohmann occupies a niche in SEAL history as the only person to complete a grueling test known as the Death Trap, documented in the Journal of Naval Special Warfare.)

After the Navy, Hohmann returned to Boston and raised three children while working primarily as an arborist and part time as a commercial diver.

“I’m not a turkey,’’ he said. “I’ve been doing tree work for over 50 years.’’

Hohmann said he approached Mayor Thomas M. Menino at a recent event, learned it was a state problem, and subsequently stopped a campaigning Governor Deval Patrick to talk about Jamaicaway trees. Redirected to the community relations office, Hohmann received what he considered an unsatisfactory response.

State law calls for the protection of public shade trees, but not at the expense of public safety. Wendy Fox, a Department of Conservation and Recreation spokeswoman, said DCR is monitoring the situation.

“Right now, there are no plans to cut down any of those trees. They are historic, 100-year-old red oaks, so we’d want to be very careful,’’ Fox said. “But if anything looks dangerous, it’ll be addressed.’’

Drivers question decision to make way for bikes on Rte. 135
A few readers e-mailed recently wondering what happened to Route 135 in Wellesley. Also known as Central Street, the 1 1/4-mile stretch running between the Natick line and Wellesley Center alongside Wellesley College used to have two lanes in each direction. In the last week of October, the state repainted the lines to create one car lane and one bike lane in each direction, with a turning lane at intersections.

“This road is one of the worst-maintained stretches of Route 135 and is in terrible shape not only for driving but also during the Boston Marathon,’’ wrote Devin Cashman, a Natick resident who commutes along the road to work. “It seems like this change was done with no public input and in the dead of night.’’

Fellow Natick resident Jane Bruce didn’t mince words: “In this day and age, who in their right mind would reduce the number of lanes from two to one? . . . Any clue as to what they were thinking?’’ Bruce, who uses the road to reach her pet grooming business in Newton Highlands, said she has been caught in delays at Weston Road — which connects to Route 9 — when traffic from the turning lane backs up and blocks the through lane.

Department of Transportation spokesman Richard Nangle said the state changed the lanes at the request of the town, which was prompted by the college. Nangle said the initial request dates to late 2002 and that Wellesley College paid for consultant Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. to study whether the area could reasonably accommodate half as many lanes.

Nangle said it was unclear why the state waited eight years to make the change, but he said state highway engineers studied accident data from Wellesley police — the road has an above-average number of crashes — and evaluated the intersections last year before breaking out the paint this fall.

Nangle said the state held multiple community meetings, and he acknowledged that the pavement “is in poor condition and will be resurfaced in the near future.’’

Map company on board with T merchandise
Last week I wrote about the T’s plan to issue a request for proposals for a company to create official MBTA merchandise — from T-shirts to dog collars to neckties — that could be sold on the T’s website, at the direction of the general manager, Richard A. Davey.

That request will be issued in the first week of December, meaning the T store won’t be up in time for the holidays. But a limited amount of licensed merchandise is already out there, such as women’s jeans by Boston Jean Co. with the T’s multicolored route map embroidered on the back pocket ($159) available in stores and at www.bostonjeancompany.com.

The day after I spoke with Davey, the T’s marketing department sought his signature on a licensing contract with WardMaps of Cambridge, a Porter Square business specializing in original and reproduction antique neighborhood maps.

WardMaps is owned by brothers Steven and Brian Beaucher, subway fans who have expanded their business to include transit maps as well as vintage subway and trolley memorabilia, such as original roll signs used to tell passengers where a train or trolley was headed.

Under the brothers’ new deal with the MBTA, WardMaps also now sells products with the T’s current transit map, such as mugs ($11.95) and messenger bags ($49.95), at their store and at www.wardmaps.com. The merchandise is also available at Brookline Booksmith and Davis Squared in Somerville.

The T gets a 10 percent cut, according to Barbara Moulton, the MBTA’s assistant general manager for communications and marketing.

“We’re convinced this is going to take off,’’ said Steven Beaucher, who is an architect. “We’re psyched for the T and psyched for us. Hopefully everyone’s going to get some good revenue out of this.’’

When the MBTA online store gets going, the WardMaps merchandise and other previously licensed gear will also be sold there, Moulton said.

Best Buy, Redbox kiosks coming to MBTA stations
MBTA general manager Richard A. Davey has encouraged the T to look for ways to increase revenue, even slightly, without raising fares. The new World Wide Bus line to New York, which provides an alternative to South Station departures, is paying the MBTA $36,000 a year at Riverside and $12,000 a year at Alewife to gather and drop off passengers at those stops.

And the Best Buy Express kiosks that started showing up at airports two years ago — the souped-up vending machines dispense digital cameras, iPods, and headphones — are now coming to the T. They were installed at Forest Hills and Alewife stations this past week, with more bound for Back Bay and Downtown Crossing this week, T spokesman Joe Pesaturo said.

The T will collect 7 percent of the sales revenue from the Best Buy vending machines under a six-month deal with a six-month option to extend, Pesaturo said. The T will collect an equal percentage of the gross from movie rentals at Redbox kiosks that will soon be installed at Harvard, Back Bay, North Station, Forest Hills, and South Station.

The vending machines are located outside the fare gates, so you don’t need to tap a CharlieCard to access them.

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