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City of Waltham should not have torn up South St.

By Zach Phil Schwartz

Section: Opinions

September 2, 2016

Late this summer, Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan announced in an email to the Brandeis community that the City of Waltham’s Department of Public Works had begun an asphalt milling and repaving process, which would “be ongoing for the next several weeks.” That was August 11.

It’s now Sept. 2, and there seems to be no end in sight for a re-paving process that should not have been allowed to take place during this time of year. Worse, according to Callahan, the university “did not receive customary advance notice since there was some misunderstanding about the project starting date.” This lack of notice and apparent lack of progress from the city has created extremely hazardous driving conditions that should not have existed in the first place.

The announcement from Callahan came just days before students began to walk campus paths, along with the correlated number of family vehicles. When I drove in on Aug. 18, I was met rudely by grooved pavement from the train station all the way to Main St. The pavement was in no better state when hundreds of vehicles entered the Brandeis area on the two move-in days, Aug. 21 and Aug. 23.

South St. today resembles an obstacle course rather than a road, and a major thoroughfare to boot. The street is littered with raised structures that are extremely hazardous to either cross or avoid safely. The continued work done along the street has built up lines of inbound traffic rivalling only the delays seen at rush hour going outbound towards I-90.

At a time of the year that is best characterized by elevated pedestrian as well as vehicular traffic, to mill South St. was the wrong decision by the City of Waltham, and it is alarming that the university was apparently not in the loop with regards to a process that has everything to do with it.

In a follow-up email to the Brandeis community on Aug. 17, Callahan passed along an update that said that work was being done “to get ready for the asphalt paving that will take place from Wednesday, Aug. 24, through Friday, Aug. 26.” If you take a moment to survey the road, you will see that, as of the publishing of this article, no significant amount of paving has occurred.

As the fall semester begins to operate on all cylinders, we really must question why it is the City of Waltham decided to run an extremely hazardous project that could easily (and more wisely) have been done after the snows melt, in what is currently forecasted to be a far heavier and far snowier winter than we had experienced last year. By the time this project is completed, which may not be until mid-September or even October, the snows will be well on their way, followed by the plows that will threaten to tear up the newly paved asphalt.

The threat of plows doing damage to the newly paved South St. makes the situation even more curious, as such a project would logically be best reserved for the beginning of the summer, when the weather is growing progressively warmer and, more importantly, almost all of the students are moved out.

Further, the situation on South St. represents a real danger to vehicles as well as pedestrians. Any significant lack of attentiveness while driving that milled road could result in vehicle damage, from causes ranging from the raised structures to the dangerously uneven pavement height. Those drivers that fail to safely react to these obstacles in time (or at all) pose a significant threat to any pedestrians present along a road that is by no means a haven for pedestrian safety.

This is a time of year when the number of local residents and members of the Brandeis community are milling about both on foot and by car; only when the university is in session do we see the number of students, staff, faculty and other members of the Brandeis community on the roads at its peak. With all of this in mind, the City of Waltham should not have gone ahead with the roadwork and waited until the potential for hazardous situations decreased to its minimum—when Brandeis is out of session.


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