West Newton has long been looked at as an on-ramp to the Mass Pike, with four lanes of car traffic snaking through the village, as well as poorly coordinated traffic lights that often result in backed up traffic and a dangerous experience for pedestrians.
But a multi-year project to rebuild the streets of West Newton with an eye toward making it more pedestrian, shopper and bike friendly could change that.
The redesign -- the result of a long planning process by the city that included input from residents and businesses -- has one final hurdle before moving to the construction phase. On Monday, April 8 the project returns to the Newton City Council’s Finance Committee before a final vote by the full council.
The redesign includes several key elements including:
- Better traffic flow thanks to the reduction of one traffic lights and better light coordination
- Increased evening visibility with better street lighting
- Expanded public gathering place through a larger plaza in front of Sweet Tomatoes Pizza.
- Bike lanes, including some that are protected from traffic
The West Newton village center enhancements are part of a larger effort by the city to update all village centers and the first designed by following the principles of Complete Streets,which is an effort by the city and the Mass Department of Transportation that looks at streets as more than just away to move cars, but as a public resource designed for everyone, regardless of transportation mode.
“There is a lot of change ahead for West Newton and while the city continues with its Washington Street visioning process, we believe these enhancements will be beneficial for West Newton’s restaurants and other merchants there and hope they move forward,” said Newton-Needham Regional Chamber President Greg Reibman.
Local merchants supported the redesign when first discussed in 2017.
Speaking with the Boston Globe at the time, Valerie Miller, who lives in the area and owns the popular Artitudes store on Washington Street, said “I feel what they are doing will help us have a much stronger community.”
Judith Kalish, owner of Judith’s Kitchen, told the Globe that the proposal would help the businesses on the street grow. “They are going to make it more friendly for people to walk around, which is great,” she said.
At a recent Public Safety and Transportation committee meeting city councilors questioned several aspects of the plan, including the cost of enhancements, locations of ADA parking, bus stop placement and the elimination of the right turn from Washington Street onto Watertown Street. City planning officials say that all of those issues were addressed during the planning process, which started in 2016, and will provide details in a written response this week.
A full council vote is expected later this month with the 18 months of construction planned to begin later this spring.