Those of us who live near Waltham and Crafts Streets know that this is a bit of a conundrum. During the morning and evening rush, the road is a clogged mess with cars, pedestrians, and bikes fighting for position. This is especially true when students are headed to Day Middle School and Horace Mann.
The rest of the day (and night) it’s an open speedway.
The street is currently undergoing a desperately needed repaving, but not a full reconstruction. So the city traffic department took this as an opportunity to use paint and try something new (for Newton). In this case, it’s a parking chicane, in which parking alternates as you move up the street. The idea is that the driving lanes move side to side just enough to reduce speeding. Also included in this striping are bike lanes in both directions. The road is already a pretty well-used bike route for people commuting into Boston, as it offers access to the Charles River path. So the bike lanes are a welcome addition.
Today Waltham and Crafts are, at times, wide open swaths of asphalt with nothing more than a double yellow line in the middle. People make their own lanes, speed, and ignore pedestrians. Even crossing guards struggle to be seen.
The traffic department presented the new painting idea to local residents on Thursday night for feedback and discussion, as this would require some changes to parking regulations on the road.
In general, residents were supportive and encouraged the slowing of traffic. There were some calls for a larger traffic study (which, it was agreed, would be overkill for this particular project, but worth considering) and some additional review once the painting is down so we can assess its effectiveness, but overall feedback was positive. What was most interesting to me was that people tended to want a more pedestrian friendly roadway and asked for things that aren’t in this scope, such as bump-outs or additional traffic lights.
As the meeting ended one resident pointed out that we should also try to bring in better lighting, as that is key to road safety. But then he said something that made me smile: since this is the first attempt at this in the city, he wanted it to be successful so it can act as an example for when the traffic department tries to deploy it elsewhere.