Changes Planned for Intersection of School St. and Walnut St./Dexter Ave.

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An illustration of planned changes to the intersection of School Street with Walnut Street and Dexter Avenue.

An illustration of planned changes to the intersection of School Street with Walnut Street and Dexter Avenue.

The intersection where School Street meets Walnut Street and Dexter Avenue will be altered in an effort to control traffic flow and make it easier for pedestrians to cross. 

The project – estimated to cost $200,000 to $250,000 – is part of the $25 million in I-Cubed projects that are being funded by Athenahealth in a program in which they partnered with the Town of Watertown and the Mass. Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Representatives from the company based in the Arsenal on the Charles, about a block from the intersection, spoke with the Town Council’s Public Works subcommittee on Wednesday night.

The biggest change will be adding sidewalk bump outs on the four corners of the intersection, said Steve Boudreau, traffic engineer from Vanasse & Associates – the consultant working with Athenahealth.

“The bump outs will make it safer for pedestrians, reducing the crossing distance on Dexter and Walnut,” Boudreau said. “And it enhances visibility for people in the roadway already.”

Town Councilor Aaron Dushku said he has seen people crossing School Street at that intersection, and wondered if crosswalks are planned in the project. There are no crosswalks across School Street now, and Boudreau said there are no plans to add them in this project.

The largest bump outs will be on the north side of the intersection on both Walnut and Dexter. They will extend into those streets as well as into School Street, but the actual travel lanes will remain the same width. Currently, cars heading toward Arsenal Street on School Street tend to break into two streams before getting to the intersection with Walnut Street, Boudreau said. The bump outs are designed to funnel traffic in and out of the School Street/Arsenal Street intersection.

“It will provide a channelling for cars approaching Arsenal,” Boudreau said. “They will go through the intersection in one lane and will go into two lanes as they head into the intersection and head left or right on Arsenal Street.”

Town Councilor Susan Falkoff said she believes the most dangerous part of the intersection is when drivers cross from Walnut to Dexter or vice versa. She worries that the narrowing of the lane would create more backup and make it harder to get across.

Boudreau said a “don’t block the box” will be painted in the intersection to try to stop people from blocking the path across School Street. He added that one of the difficulties of that crossing is that the two streets do not line up. The bump outs will make is so cars are better aligned with the street on the other side, Boudreau said.

Also, the stop line for cars on Walnut and Dexter will be moved closer to School Street, making it easier for drivers to see and giving them a shorter distance to cross.

Engineers have noticed drivers rolling through the stop signs on Dexter and Walnut, Boudreau said, so flashing stop signs will be placed at those intersections.

Two trees will be planted on Dexter Avenue near the intersection. No parking spots will be lost on any of the streets in the redesign, Boudreau added.

The intersection will have a partial repaving, using the mill and overlay method where the top layer is scraped up, ground up and laid down to make a new road surface, said Public Works Superintendent Gerald Mee.

The plans will likely go before the Traffic Commission and the earliest the work would start would be in the 2018 construction season, said Phil Memmott, Athena’s Manager of Construction Projects.

The Public Works subcommittee voted 3-0 to give their support to the project.

2 thoughts on “Changes Planned for Intersection of School St. and Walnut St./Dexter Ave.

  1. The don’t block the box works only half the time at Bigelow and Wells.
    I would not count on that at Walnut and Dexter.
    When you take a right on School and then try to take a left onto
    Walnut it is usually blocked and it is dangerous.

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