LYNN — A 24-year-old motorcyclist was killed in a crash on Eastern and Waitt avenues one month ago. Now, his family and friends are asking the city to make the intersection safer.
“He was a hard-working young man coming home from a long day’s work who wanted to go for a cruise and it ended up being his last one,” said Joseph Pires, the young man’s stepfather. “Javon’s dream would be to not have anyone else hurt there.”
Javon Walczak was driving his motorcycle away from Western Avenue when he collided with a car crossing Eastern to get to Waitt. A memorial pole was set up so friends and family could mourn the Lynn native, but their time spent there has opened their eyes to the dangers of the intersection.
“It killed us when we were there at his memorial and we saw how fast cars were going,” said Johnson Mao, 29, a childhood friend of Walczak. “How many more memorials do we need before the city realizes we need more than just a stop sign? This is not just because my friend passed away, maybe we can help save a future life.”
The night after the crash, friends and family gathered around the memorial pole, said Mao. Residents who live in the neighborhood joined them while they grieved and a discussion began about how fast cars travel when they come off Western Avenue, he said.
Pires said he watched many pedestrians have “close calls” while crossing that intersection. He and Mao have a list of ideas that could help make the area safer, such as a yielding yellow street light or a crosswalk to warn drivers to slow down.
A week after Walczak’s death, just before his would-have-been 25th birthday, Pires said there was a family that dropped by the memorial pole to share their condolences. They told Pires their son died almost two decades before in a motorcycle crash in the same intersection. Their son’s memorial pole is directly across from Walczak’s.
“I am doing this to honor my son,” Pires said. “I’d love to have something there for him and for the other gentleman whose family still comes here to mourn him.”
Traffic signs at the intersection is the easiest route to take in the short-term, said Ward 2 City Councilor Richard Starbard, especially since Lynn is not in a financial position to implement traffic lights. He said he reached out to the city’s Traffic Commission and was shocked to hear that intersection averages only four crashes a year.
Walczak’s crash is still under investigation by Lynn Police and the State Police Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section. No charges have been filed against the driver of the car, a 72-year-old Lynn man, who was not injured.
While Starbard was underwhelmed by the Eastern/Waitt crash data, he did acknowledge the Eastern and Western Avenue intersection, which was ranked No. 63 on the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s (MassDOT) most recent Top Crash Locations report, with 55 total crashes, 14 of them fatal or including an injury, from 2014 to 2016. Cars are coming onto Eastern Avenue from Western Avenue at a very high rate of speed and that is when things become dangerous, he said.
“For the immediate time being, we are trying to work on getting improved signage, especially for the cars coming from Western Avenue,” said Starbard. “We would have some type of signage, like a low speed limit or dangerous intersection sign … It goes without saying that if you know that intersection, you should know not to be going 50 mph.”
Last December, Lynn received $59 million from MassDOT funding for roadway configuration projects aimed at improving safety and traffic. Starbard said the money will help reconstruct intersections from Buchanan Bridge on Western Avenue all the way to Market Square, which includes the Eastern/Western Ave intersection.
“I’m hoping once we start having discussions in the neighborhood meetings about how these constructions and reconfigurations will take place, we can incorporate the intersection at Eastern and Waitt Avenues,” he said. “Maybe we can do something with signaling and flashing lights at a later time.”