Many road projects planned by the Town of Watertown focus on major roads and intersections, but the Department of Public Works recently began an effort to find places to make small scale changes on neighborhood streets.
The improvements are not just for motor vehicles, but also for walkers, bikers and riders of public transportation, said Phil Goff, senior planning associate with Alta Planning + Design, the firm hired by the town to create a list of projects.
Accommodating all these forms of transportation is part of the Town’s Complete Streets Policy. In February Town officials signed a Commonwealth Compact with the state and creating the policy was the first step toward the Town being able to apply for up to $400,000 in state funding for the projects.
The second step, or tier, is creating the Complete Streets Prioritization Plan. This effort kicked off on Dec. 14 with a public meeting where people were asked to identify places in town they would like to see changed. The ideas will be examined and culled down to 15-20 which will become the Prioritization Plan.
The list is just a starting point, said David Watson, principal of WatsonActive, is working with Alta on the plan.
“The plan is not set in stone. It is not a firm commitment,” Watson said. “It will change with the changing needs of the Town. You don’t have to build them at all.”
Alta’s Charlie Creagh gave some examples of projects that could be on the list. For pedestrians, a new cross walk or improvements to current ones such as flashing lights to show when someone is crossing. For bikes, it may be creating new bike lanes or a bike boulevard – a secondary street where bikes are prioritized. For vehicles it may be redesigning an intersection to make it safer or adding a traffic light or sign. Bus shelters would be an example of a public transit improvement along with creating priority lanes for buses. See more details in the slide presentation from the meeting (click here).
Meeting attendees looked over enlarged maps of the town, split into East, West and Central, and got to tell planners about improvements they would like to see. By the end of the session, the maps were marked up with dozens of ideas and areas of concern. Organizers went over some of the highlights for each area.
In the East:
People suggested having better signage or wayfinders to get people between Mt. Auburn Street and Belmont Street north of Coolidge Square.
In that area there are areas where it is not clear which road had the right of way, such as where Templeton Parkway and Edgecliff Road converge.
Some thought a bike boulevard could be put on streets such as Nichols Avenue and Maplewood Street so cyclists could avoid Arsenal and Mt. Auburn streets.
Bus shelters on Mt. Auburn Street and Arsenal Street were also requested.
In the Central area, including Watertown Square:
Attendees complained about pedestrian walk signals that go on at the same time that drivers turning right have a green, making it unsafe.
Several streets around Watertown Square were pointed out as cut throughs on streets not built for it.
Others were concerned about the safety of pedestrians in the area in the back of Victory Field, particularly with students from the high school frequenting the area.
Speeding on Orchard Street was also brought up as a concern.
In the West:
Multiple traffic cut throughs and dangerous intersections were highlighted.
More walking paths were requested.
People asked for relocation of crosswalks so that they are not on blind curves, such as on the Charles River Path near the boardwalk section.
More benches along Main Street was another request.
Those who did not attend the meeting can still provide their ideas through the town’s online survey. The survey will be open until Jan. 15, 2018. The survey can be found here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/WatertownCS