Residents of Charles River Road, and nearby streets, told Town officials that the street has been bombarded with problems in recent months, from construction trucks to speeding cars to people parking on their streets.
After residents complained about trucks carrying prefabricated pieces of concrete for the garage being built by Athenahealth, the town created certain routes and times when the deliveries can be made. Residents said they are still being delivered early in the morning.
In May, residents brought up their concerns to the Town, saying they did not think that trucks were allowed on Charles River Road, which is a parkway along the river.
At a meeting of the Town Council’s Public Works subcommittee, Public Works Superintendent Gerry Mee said the Massachusetts Department of Transportation gave the trucks special permits to use the road. However, the DPW worked with Athenahealth to spread trucks along five different routes to get to the Arsenal on the Charles, where the construction is taking place. The deliveries can only be made between 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Resident Sarah Ryan said neighbors have told her that they have seen trucks on the road earlier than 9:30 a.m., sometimes before 7 a.m.
Mee said that the permit only applies to the delivery of large sections that make the trucks oversized in terms of weight and/or width. He said he would want to know if other trucks are using Charles River Road or at other times.
“If it were going down the street at 6 a.m. I would call Athena,” Mee said. “If they are dump trucks or concrete trucks that are outside the permit, they are not allowed to be on Charles River Road.”
Mee said people could contact the DPW to report trucks that are violating the permit. He said it would help if residents note the name of the company on the side of the truck.
Residents also wondered if they could limit when trucks could use other roads, such as North Beacon Street. Mee said the town cannot ban trucks unless there is a full-time truck restriction on a road. He added, however, that trucks should be using main arteries, not side streets, unless a side street is the “most logical” route to a site.
Charles River Road has become a speedway, some residents said. Those living on or near the road worry about their children crossing the road, and earlier this summer a family of ducks was struck and killed by a speeding vehicle. Speeding vehicles on North Beacon Street have also been a problem, residents said.
Councilors wondered if steps could be taken to slow vehicles on Charles River Road. Mee said on other streets in town, the roadway has been narrowed by putting in landscaped “bump outs,” and raised tables have been added to some streets to slow down vehicles. In other places on-street parking narrows the road and slows drivers. However, since Charles River Road is a road owned by the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the town cannot make such improvements without approval from state officials, Mee said.
Councilor Tony Palomba said that the Watertown Police can still enforce speeding on the roadway. The subcommittee voted hold a discussion at a future meeting on how to calm traffic and enforce speeding on Charles River Road and North Beacon Street. They will invite members of the Traffic Commission to take part.
Employees from the Arsenal on the Charles parking on residential streets near the complex was a major complaint from area residents, some of whom said their driveway was blocked by parked vehicles. After an effort by Athenahealth to track the vehicles, and police ticketing those parking on the residential streets, people have stopped parking in their neighborhood streets. However, they continue to park on the stretch of North Beacon Street near the river.
“They use the stretch from Charles River Road to Greenough as their parking lot,” said resident Sarah Ryan. “It is incredibly congested.”
Another resident who lives on the end of Charles River Road near Watertown Square estimates it takes an extra 15 minutes each way going through that stretch of North Beacon Street during commute times.
Another area of concern is the parking lot at Arsenal Park. Resident Michelle Cockonougher said that during the day the parking lot is usually full, but that there are few, if any people, in the park.
That area of North Beacon is owned by the DCR, and it is not clear if – like Watertown streets – there is a two-hour parking limit on the road.