Small Road on the Southside Has More Than Its Share of Issues

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Joe Schick

Potholes pock the section of Jackson Road in Watertown, while the area in better condition is in Newton. This is one of many complaints by neighbors on the cross street of Theurer Park.

Joe Schick

Potholes pock the section of Jackson Road in Watertown, while the area in better condition is in Newton. This is one of many complaints by neighbors on the cross street of Theurer Park.

Each year, to celebrate the end of school, the residents of Theurer Park in Watertown shut down their street and have a block party. Kids can run around in the street and ride their bikes without fear for their safety, but the rest of the year their parents make sure they stick to the sidewalks. 

The street is a short, block-long road on the Southside of Watertown, but it has more than its share of problems, residents say. Speeding cars, pot holes, mud-filled planting strips and lack of crosswalks – problems facing many streets in town, but few suffer from all of them.

Filled with two-family homes, Theurer Park also has 18 children and 15 dogs residing there. With all the problems, residents point to one.

“The biggest concern is the speeding, with so many kids on the street,” said Venda Mercer, who has lived on the street for four years.

Part of the problem the location of the street. It sits directly across Watertown Street (Rte. 16) from the main entrance and exit for the Stop & Shop Plaza. There is no stop light or stop sign on Watertown Street to control traffic, so cars tear across the intersection and keep going at a high rate of speed on Theurer Park, said resident Marie Schick.

Neighbors have been complaining to town elected officials and staff for years. They asked for granite curbs to be put in to make cars park in the street. This would prevent planting strips from being torn up and, more importantly, make the roadway narrower and thus make traffic slower. They also suggested that the road could be made into a one-way road. They also requested crosswalks on Watertown Street and on the other end on Jackson Road.

Residents they say little has changed.

“Six years ago, there was so much traffic, and there were accidents at Stop & Shop. They did a lengthy traffic study,” Schick said. “All they did was at the end of the block they put up a stop sign.”

The cross walk to Watertown Street is there, but it does not have curb cuts for the handicap. Ron Bieringer, who moved to his home in 1984, said one of his neighbors almost got injured using the crosswalk.

“We do have a disabled person living on the block, almost completely blind,” Bieringer said. “She has a cane and has to walk over the curb and walk out into the street. She has trouble seeing the curb and she fell into the street.”

Cars also go around ones stopped waiting to turn into the Stop & Shop lot, making it difficult to cross Watertown Street safely, said Marie’s husband Joe Schick. He added that just down Watertown Street, a man was killed in November when a car hit him as he crossed the road.

Public Works Superintendent Gerry Mee said his department has looked at Watertown Street.

“That’s on our street maintenance list,” Mee said.

The DPW has applied to the state to get funding to redesign the street, but has not yet received it, Mee said. Plans include re-striping the road to make it clear that cars should not go around waiting vehicles.

The crosswalk, however, will have to be moved.

“It’s it a bad place, right next to the (Stop & Shop) driveway,” Mee said.

Another complaint of those living on Theurer Park is the condition of Jackson Road, which is a cut through used to get from that part of Watertown to Washington Street in Newton. Most of the roadway is in Newton, but the last block or so is in Watertown. The dividing line is clear, Joe Schick said – just look for the pot holes.

Residents have asked for a crosswalk on Jackson, because that is where the school bus taking kids to Hosmer School stops. One of the Schick’s children almost got struck by a car that failed to stop for the bus.

“The driver was on her phone and didn’t notice the big yellow bus with its lights on and almost hit our son,” Schick said.

Joe Schick

The planting strips on Theurer Park have turned to mud after cars parked on them, killing the grass.

The state of Jackson Road is a bit confusing. It has long been treated as a private way by the Town. However, there are not “private way” signs posted. If it is a private way, the town won’t replace the roadway, but they recently filled the pot holes – 42 of a foot or wider by the Schick’s count – on Jackson.

Mee called it a “no man’s land,” and said while he cannot find any documentation saying the road is owned by the Town, he is now checking with the Mass. Department of Transportation to see if they have any record that it is an “accepted road,” and therefore a public roadway.

If it is a private road, the three or four homeowners on that stretch of the road would have to pay for the new asphalt, which could cost in the neighborhood of $500,000.

6 thoughts on “Small Road on the Southside Has More Than Its Share of Issues

  1. I live on Theurer Park with my kids and dogs, and think it’s fine the way it is. If Curbs were put in, cars parked on both sides would make it to narrow for a fire truck to make it down the street. I don’t like the idea of making it a “one way” either.

  2. I travel on Jackson Road daily and it has always struck me how badly the Watertown end needs repaving. There are a great many Watertown Streets, including mine, that are in need of curbs, where the planting strips are destroyed by cars and water pools after rains. Narrow streets need curbs and parking on one side only to ensure passage for emergency vehicles and safety for pedestrians. Curbs also help direct water into storm drains; puddles where asphalt has failed and where parking strips have been compromised become breeding ground for mosquitoes. The town is not taking these matters of public safety seriously enough. There needs to be a fair and transparent process for planning roadway improvements in Watertown.

  3. Just an fyi the town does not put in curbs unless there was a curd there before, the same goes for sidewalks. The town seems to only do over about 6 or so streets a year, at that rate we will never see most streets repaired in our life time. The cost of street repair and the number of streets needing repair is rising a lot faster than we can fix them. There is no plan in place to fix this problem. The gas company is also not patching streets correctly after replacing their lines, creating new problems. Most contractors digging up the streets do the same and there is no follow up from the town. This is the way Watertown is, people seem to be more concerned with becoming a sanctuary city than fixing the roads.

    • Thanks for your comment Steve. The DPW does put in new curbs. It is part of the goal when they do a complete repaving of the street. The don’t do it if they mill and overlay (scrape the top layer and put another one down). As you mentioned they only do a few streets a year.

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