A local group wants to give residents a voice in how transportation and traffic in Watertown looks in the future, and will hold a forum to educate residents about transportation planning.
Traffic and public transportation have become big issues in Watertown, and will be even more vital as developments go up on Arsenal and Pleasant streets. So, the Watertown Public Transit Task Force, the Town Council and the Watertown Community Development and Planning Department will organize a forum on Thursday, June 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the Watertown Free Public Library.
The event is free and open to the all residents, employees and business owners in Watertown.
The goal of the forum is to increase the shared knowledge about what modern transportation planning can do in municipalities like Watertown to improve local transportation and ease traffic congestion.
“The idea is to educate the public and members of the Town Council about what municipal transportation planning is: what it can do and what tools are available,” said Jonathan Bockian, a member of the Task Force who helped organize the forum.
Watertown has been working on transportation issues, but it has not been in an organized fashion, Bockian said.
“We have see a lot of stuff going on, but it is kind of piecemeal,” Bockian said. “To just look at this development and how traffic signals will be changed and turn lanes added, that is good, but it doesn’t look at the big picture.”
Just some of the ongoing transportation projects, studies and efforts in town include:
- Commitment to create a local Transportation Management Association (TMA) with shuttle bus service
- Town wide traffic baseline count
- 2009 Bicycle Transportation Plan
- MassDOT Arsenal Corridor Study
- Town Mt. Auburn Corridor Study
- Mass DCR Fresh Pond Pkwy/Mt. Auburn St. Intersection Study
- Establishment of Town Council ad hoc Transportation Committee
- Town FY 2017 funding for transportation planner in DCDP
A panel of speakers will be on hand to share their experiences. Panelists will include James Freas, Newton’s Planning Director; Mike Garvin, the Waltham Traffic Engineer; Ralph DeNisco, a principal at the Boston office of the international transportation planning firm Nelson/Nygaard; and Steve Magoon, Watertown Assistant Town Manager.
Newton and Waltham have recently begun their own community-wide transportation planning efforts.
While the goal is to find ways to reduce congestion and allow drivers, public transit users, cyclists and walkers to get around more easily, there is one hurdle beyond the control of the town.
“A big constant out there is the MBTA,” said Task Force member Elliot Friedman, who noted that the system is not functioning reliably in Watertown. “It is important we do all that we can do, but it is a major constraint.”
Members of the Task Force believe residents can play a role in shaping the changes in transportation in Watertown if they learn about the issues.
“We all need to know what we ought to be advocating for,” Bockian said.
This will not be the Transportation Task Force’s first such effort. Last year, the group helped organize a forum on what TMAs are and what they can do. Group founder Joe Levendusky also got then-MBTA Superintendent Beverly Scott to visit town in 2014 to see the town’s public transit needs.
People interested in joining WPTTF or finding out more about it can write to firstname.lastname@example.org.