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My census data collection this morning at Parker and Route 9 was accompanied by the cacophony of an asphalt cutting saw. When the crew leader (carrying a thick roll of blueprints) was finally within hailing distance, I asked about the project, and he shouted welcome news over the din: “Traffic signal system!” I smiled and shouted back, “That’s great news!” “Long overdue,” he said. “Long overdue,” and went back to work helping a crew member paint the dotted lines where the saw would cut.

I wish I had brought a video camera to document just how crazy the traffic is on that overpass… but I’m you all already know. I don’t yet know any details (crossing signals? location of crosswalks? bike lanes?), but signals all by themselves should be a vast improvement.

That’s a critical intersection for bike and pedestrian safety, with Route 9 creating a barrier between many students’ residences and Newton South and two middle schools. My son will be heading to middle school across that overpass in just under two years. This signal couldn’t come soon enough.

10/4 Update:

Apparently, there will be crossing signals and crosswalks, complete with ADA compliant ramps, though the siting of crosswalks has yet to be clarified. (Communication with constituents about this intersection has been sorely lacking.) Current plans are for the lights to be flashing red & yellow except during rush hour, when they will use the whole green/yellow/red signal cycle.

The other major safety impediment in that intersection–the utility pole blocking the northbound view for drivers turning left onto Parker from eastbound Route 9–has yet to be addressed. For some reason, moving or eliminating it has not been a priority, even though many drivers are probably itching to sneak out at night and hack it down with an axe.

A lot of the trouble comes from the fact that although Parker St. belongs to Newton, Route 9 and its interchanges belong to Massachusetts. Whenever there has to be coordination between the City and the Commonwealth, stuff falls through the gaps in communication. Important stuff. Watch this space for more info: we may be able to squeeze a little more out of the City. Who knows, maybe we’ll find out the plan before it’s finished!