A turn for the better? WA institutes new traffic pattern

John Vassiliou, Editor

The Westford Board of Selectmen recently approved a trial of a new traffic pattern outside of Westford Academy.

The trial consists of loosening restrictions on the current one-way traffic flow on Patten Road between the times of 7:30 A.M to 9:00 A.M., and 2:30 P.M. to 3:00 P.M. The recommendation to do this was handed down from the town’s engineering department, otherwise known as “BETA Group,” in order to help alleviate some of the congestion in the morning and afternoon traffic flow.

“By taking off the restriction here at Patten Road, people coming from the center can take a left onto Patten Road into this area, and then people coming from the Nab area and the Forge area can use the intersection at Coldspring and Forge Village, so we’re hoping that there will be some relief in the traffic, but we have to see what happens,” said WA’s Principal James Antonelli.

Antonelli stated that the restriction on Patten Road had been there as far back as he could remember, having been a student at WA himself. He also elaborated that one of the possible explanations for the uptick in traffic could be because of the school’s scheduling itself.

“Part of the reason, [I think], is that students have to get up so early; and it hasn’t changed, but maybe parents have been more conscientious about wanting to drive their son or daughter to school based on it being so early in the morning, and if they can drive them here then maybe the student can sleep a little bit longer,” Antonelli said.

Antonelli also hopes to help promote other measures that may help alleviate this problem, possibly by even having the school start time be moved to 8:00 in the morning as opposed to 7:35. Antonelli also stresses that in order for some of these new measures to be successful going forward, it will most likely require the obedience of people to the rules.

“We may have an opportunity to look at Hartford Road, and opening the side with the gate and have Hartford Road traffic go around. But people have to follow the rules. People make up their own rules, and drop off and pick up where they want to; it screws up all the traffic. Some people don’t want to be told how to do things, and when you [make your own rules] it creates a jam somewhere else. You have to follow the rules. If you follow the rules and come in one way and around and so forth then traffic should work fairly well,” said Antonelli.

The decision as to whether this new pattern will be kept in place will be determined at the end of this school year once the trail is completed. However, should the problem get worse under these new rules, the previous pattern may be re-instituted.

Seniors are also frustrated with the traffic problems occurring in both the mornings and afternoons, with some thinking that there are some other measures that should be considered to help curb the traffic problem.

“It wasn’t as bad in past years. I know because my brother went to WA and graduated in 2013, and the traffic wasn’t nearly as bad when he went to school here. So it’s definitely decreased in efficiency,” senior Steven MacMaster said. 

MacMaster spoke about how one of the possible reasons that this bulge in traffic could be because of the large size of the senior class, and that he found it odd that the school doesn’t allow all possible roads leading to WA to be opened up to drivers to help mitigate some of the problems.

“You don’t see them shutting down the highways during rush hour to get into Boston, it just never made any sense to me. I’d say that the best measure that they could do is pave the road to Robinson and make it a one-way road in the mornings,” MacMaster said.

MacMaster wasn’t the only senior who has seen the gradual rise in traffic over the years. Senior Matt Laverdure talked about now opposed to last year, the traffic situation has taken a turn for the worse.

“I got a [parking] pass from a senior and I didn’t have to show up until around 7:25, but now I have to show up at [around] 7:18. Traffic wise it’s very dense because we have a huge class [who are looking for spots] and if you don’t [come in early] then you have to scramble,” said Laverdure.

Laverdure recommended that one of the things that the school could do to help students get to class on time would be to make the 7:35 deadline a little more flexible, giving a small grace period for the students contending with traffic to get in on time.

“At 7:36 you need to get a pass, so I think that if we give like a five minute [grace period] for the people who are in traffic, I think that’d be cool,” Laverdure said.

It remains to be seen as to whether this new traffic pattern will be a positive change or not; only time will tell.

“I just hope that each one of these efforts comes up with something positive,” Antonelli said.