The DPW and Planning Department have been working on improving the traffic flow through Watertown Square, as well as making it and Mt. Auburn Street friendlier to bicyclists and pedestrians. However, as usual, they are not considering neighborhood integrity, nor the needs of small businesses. It is funny to me that they are touting “complete streets,” which simply means designing for more modes of transportation than cars. Cities in Europe have been doing this type of design for over 60 years, but we have just “discovered” it here in the U.S., and we don’t do it well yet.
Their plans call for rerouting Charles River Road under the mistaken idea that one less light in the Square will make it so much better. As if the traffic that can’t go down CRR will magically disappear. Instead, it will probably go down North Beacon (because, well, who wants to go down Arsenal?). I love bike lanes, I commute by bike sometimes myself and love to see more consideration given to bicyclists. But I don’t bicycle in the winter. Very few do. Our public transportation is not getting better soon. We can’t get a TMA off the ground because Planning has not required enough mitigation from the many developers making a mint off Watertown. So there WILL be more cars on the roads, especially considering the heavy development on the east side of the Square. The new Arsenal Mall promises thousands more cars a day alone.
So where does that leave the frustrated motorists who don’t want to get stuck in the long lines on North Beacon Street? Well, if you’ve had the pleasure of seeing some of the rude motorist behavior during rush hour at the light behind Athena, it isn’t hard to guess. They will be on the side streets, racing to cut through and get ahead any way they can. The traffic engineers, who must be trained in a vacuum in this country, have taken traffic counts at the light at Athena, Irving and the Square. They have extrapolated all their predictions from these few locations. They have not considered how the traffic will behave on North Beacon Street (or is behaving now). Except at Irving, they didn’t include North Beacon Street. They know nothing about the real consequences of any of their proposals.
The Town is obsessed with the idea of “connecting” Arsenal Street with the river. That’s their grand plan. They don’t seem to care that these “connections” are through quiet neighborhoods. With these plans, I believe that those who live on North Beacon Street, Riverside and Irving will become much more congested with traffic. The streets on the east end, where I live, will become much more prone to cut-through traffic, as well as be cut-off from the Square, since the only way for us to go west will be across the heavier traffic on N. Beacon Street. Or, I guess we can cut down Irving to the light — kind of proves my point, doesn’t it?
Now, let’s look at Common and Mt. Auburn Streets. They have completely removed the parking on the commercial blocks there. The DPW tells us that you can’t have parking in the middle of an intersection. But I guess a bus stop is OK? Really? True to the way they do planning in this town, they have not talked with the businesses there. I notified my vet at Pet Haven and they had no idea they were going to lose the parking out front. They realize that this will cause all their customers to park on the neighborhood side streets, something they don’t want.
How can a town propose such a major change and not approach those who will be most affected? But then, they are accountable to no one, because it is the unelected officials in this town who make all the decisions. Only a few on the Town Council have the gumption to ask the hard questions. Pet Haven will probably have to move. And neighborhood integrity? Yeah, right.
Get involved, especially if you live in these neighborhoods. But anyone should be concerned about the accountability of the people making decisions in this town and the transparency of those decisions.
Bay St., Watertown