WHS Students Offer Solutions to Westborough Parking Problems

Photo Credit: Knights of Columbus, Westborough Ma

Photo Credit: Knights of Columbus, Westborough Ma

As members of the Westborough High School Current Affairs class, we were assigned a project to analyze issues facing Westborough and find possible solutions. After going through the town’s strategic plans from the past several years, we discovered that traffic was one of the biggest complaints. In 2018, when asked during a town meeting what the people thought the greatest problem facing the town was, traffic was the mass response, with 16 people answering traffic, followed by 12 people answering school and business each. So, determining that this was an important factor in town life, we decided to look into the problem further. 

Through group discussions, we ultimately decided that the greatest issues involving traffic were downtown parking, crashes at the intersection of Hopkinton Road and Upton Road, and the lack of sidewalks along East Main Street. To work out solutions to these problems, we talked with several local businesses, Sergeant Detective Luce of the Westborough PD, and Chris Payat of the Department of Public Works. 

The first issue we examined was downtown parking. When driving through the Westborough rotary, you can see the limited number of spaces available. With only a couple allotted per business, either facing diagonally into the street or requiring parallel parking, the setup is extremely dangerous as it requires people to back into traffic. With the speed some people travel through this area, car accidents are not uncommon. Additionally, this process can take a long time, slowing the traffic to a near halt, causing annoyance for the many people trying to get through the downtown area. This danger can cause people to not want to park downtown, which actually harms local businesses. 

When interviewing the managers or owners of Red Barn, NY Pie & Kitchen, Westborough Cork and Grain, and Elsie Kaye Glassworks, they agreed that parking definitely affects their place of work. People are much more likely to pass by local shops for a chain if they feel it is more convenient. This hurts the small businesses owners and our town’s economy as a whole, so we decided this was an urgent issue which needed a fix. 

The best solution we came up with was a parking lot close to the rotary, as this would allow easier access to the downtown area. Initially this was difficult because we could not find a location close enough to be effective, but Sergeant Luce helped us to discover that there was actually already a lot in the area. Located behind Central One Federal Credit Union and South Street Diner, the lot is hidden and often forgotten about. We believe that if signage is increased, it will promote the use of this public lot. It is close enough to rotary businesses for people to have easy access to all the stores, but it is much easier to pull in and out of. 

It would also open up the roads, allowing big cars and trucks to drive without needing to edge onto the other side of the road to avoid parked cars. There is another added benefit: people would no longer have to stop so often to let cars back out, allowing for traffic to move through the rotary faster. 

Sergeant Luce also provided us with data about the location of crashes in Westborough, and we learned that a large number occur at the intersection of Hopkinton and Upton roads. The issue here is that Hopkinton Road has the right of way, even though it curves while Upton Road remains straight. Just by looking at the area, it appears to many people that those on Upton should have the right of way, a misconception that can have terrible consequences for drivers. At the moment there is only a stop sign to alert drivers on Upton Road, so we recommend an electric sign warning people to stop ahead of the intersection. We also discussed the possibility of adding a stoplight, but the construction would be expensive and take a long time, so we ultimately decided it was not the best solution. Our recommendation is to plant an electronic sign to bring more attention to the proper right of way and encourage drivers to stop and think before passing through. 

Finally, we looked at the foot traffic on East Main Street, specifically around the Route 30 bridge near McDonalds. When passing through or looking at photos, it is easy to see dirt paths worn into the ground alongside the busy street. Underneath the bridge, there is almost no place for pedestrians, this often results in civilians walking on the road itself. The bridge itself is already narrow, and given the speed cars often travel at on this street, the risk of an accident is high. We figured that the best possible solution would be to add a sidewalk along the road, but quickly ran into difficulty when we realized that Route 30 is a state road, so Westborough has no control over the street plans. When we reached out to Chris Payant, he informed us that the DPW had looked into putting in a sidewalk, but for unspecified reasons the idea was dropped. At this roadblock, we felt that there were not any other solutions to this problem, but Sergeant Luce informed us that, though Westborough did not control the road itself, the town technically controlled the six feet of land that surrounded it. Although this project would be quite costly, it would drastically increase the safety of pedestrians.  

Overall, when traffic is such a big complaint for Westborough citizens, it is important to take a step back and examine possible solutions. While these options by themselves will not stop all of the traffic issues facing Westborough, they are a step in the right direction. By making parking easier, preventing crashes through proper signage, and keeping pedestrians safe with better sidewalks, the town will be able to find the source of other, more complex traffic problems and find solutions to them. It will be a long process, but we believe that the end result would be very appreciated by Westborough citizens in the years to come.