LETTER: A More Walkable Watertown … And an update on Unwalkable Highland Avenue

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Some of you will remember that I wrote a letter to the editor of the Watertown News on September 7th regarding the serious nature of the conditions on Highland Avenue for school children.

A day or so later, I thought that I’d been heard. Construction on this project picked up, especially near the hidden school crossing that had no signage warning of that crossing, where a child had been hit in 2018. There was a police cruiser there, I presumed for extra help with this child safety crosswalk issue. Wow! Our government at work! I made a point of going to the next City Council meeting to thank the City for their quick response.

But, to borrow a phrase from Mark Twain, “The reports of Highland Avenue progress have been greatly exaggerated.” Ten days after my letter, they had torn up sidewalks on BOTH sides of the street on the same block, so now the kids had no choice but to walk in the street! Repair has slowed down to a crawl. I saw three guys with a shovel “on the job” on Highland just the other day.

Now, I’ve been told that Watertown neighbors on Nextdoor are very upset, not only with the pace but the quality of the work. We’re talking about a 14 block street here, that is running a year plus to be fixed (and according to residents, not very well at that). Driveways are being made inaccessible, and there are still no signs to warn of a school crossing.

Note … school signage is not a foreign concept to this City. Here’s a picture of the front of the Cunniff:

And now the back of the school, at the crossing:

At the time of my last article, I’d also passed this information on to the City Councilors, the head of the DPW, the Superintendent of Schools, the Police Chief and the Traffic Commission. This week I’ve passed on this information again to my city councilor.

I guess what got me to write this letter today was that I was outside of my house this morning, and I saw a little kid on a scooter, speeding up toward Highland, with his father in hot pursuit. The father was steadying his daughter’s bike as he ran. I thought, was this going to be the day when this little boy, who was way ahead, would decide, “I’m big enough to do this myself!” and try to cross Highland Ave without his dad’s help? I shuddered.

Also, with the prolonged construction, rats are running all over our neighborhood. I saw one on a neighbor’s porch the other night, I’m assuming looking for a way into his house. It’s getting colder, and they’re looking for a housing upgrade. Just another pervasive problem in the City of Watertown!

Meanwhile, we had the kickoff for a very expensive study for a Watertown Square project called “A (More) Walkable Watertown!” I’m hoping that while we’re at it, we can extend that goal of pedestrian safety to all of our Watertown neighborhoods.

How can you help? Take a minute to call or write your City Councilors (citycouncilors@watertown-ma.gov will send a message to all of them at the same time). Here are their phone numbers:

Council President Mark S, Sideris: 617-924-2699
Nicole Gardner: 617-835-4364
Lisa Feltner: 617-926-5344
Vincent Piccirilli: 617-924-0665
Emily Izzo: 617-894-6042
John Airasian: 617-308-4437
Caroline Bays: 617-894-0045
John G. Gannon: 617-393-9877
Anthony Palomba: 781-664-3525

Leave them with one simple message: well constructed, safe streets and sidewalks (especially for our children) is a Watertown Community Value.

Thank you,

Linda Scott
Watertown Resident

3 thoughts on “LETTER: A More Walkable Watertown … And an update on Unwalkable Highland Avenue

  1. It does seem like the process for renovating this street has taken an unusually long period of time and has caused great inconvenience for the residents.

    Now that schools are back in session, isn’t there a way to put up at least temporary ‘school ahead’ warning signs to alert unfamiliar drivers on this street that students will be crossing? Safety near a school should always be a paramount factor in the planning process.

    When is this street going to be finished? (Hopefully before we get snow!) Isn’t there a way to better communicate and keep the residents in the loop of the project timing? It is discouraging that our city officials have not responded to many of their questions and concerns. Who is directly responsible for providing answers to them?

    Is the City depriving them of parking spaces on their property that were in existence when they bought their houses by closing some driveway access? Shouldn’t there be grandfather provisions for those cases?

    Maybe a meeting with the residents of that street should happen to discuss the above issues and many others that they have before the project is completed. Just a thought.

  2. As Steve Magoon said at the last Casey Park Commission meeting, it takes about a week to make a sign at the DPW. It’s been over five years that signs for parks were supposed to go up. You might want to consider putting up a handmade sign until, you know, they get around to it.

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