Resident campaigns for Complete Streets breakup

One lane of traffic continues to be closed on Pleasant Street in Marblehead as crew work to dig up the sidewalk on Thursday. Photo by Spenser Hasak

Voters approved the formation of a Traffic Safety Advisory Committee during May’s Town Meeting. As Article 49 is still awaiting approval by the attorney general’s office, the committee’s main sponsor is trying to lay the groundwork for when it finally assembles.

Dan Albert, who sponsored the committee’s creation at Town Meeting, approached the Select Board at its most recent meeting with a request. He suggested that the TSAC take over the responsibilities of some other established committees.

“On May 1, Town Meeting voters voted for safer streets, less bureaucracy, and more state money. For that to happen, particularly less bureaucracy, the current Complete Streets Committee needs to be dissolved,” Albert said. 

He reviewed the names of current and potential future committees that involve the streets, and suggested that trying to have consistent communication between all of them would be difficult. Therefore, Albert proposed his alternative.

“You could immediately begin the process of empowering [TSAC],” Albert said. “Doing so is particularly pressing, because the town is about to spend a whole bunch of money and do a bunch of planning on another set of railroad right-of-way projects… I’m going to try to make it as simple as possible: The Traffic Safety Advisory Committee is the Complete Streets Committee.”

Albert went on to argue that, similarly, the TSAC should function as the committee for traffic and the Rail Trail as well.

Albert expressed his personal frustrations with the Complete Streets Committee. Those include how the committee was formed, the amount of committees with similar premises that he feels are unnecessary, and how, in his opinion, the Complete Streets Committee has not implemented its namesake policy to its full potential.

“There’s no reason to have these silo-and-pigeonhole committees,” Albert said. “The whole purpose of creating (TSAC) is to bring all of this under one roof and to make it public.”

Thatcher Kezer functions as the chair of the Complete Streets Committee through his role as town administrator. He said he learned the functions and purposes of the town’s many committees throughout his first year in the role, and he put iexplained the significance of the Complete Streets Committee from his perspective.

“Complete Street’s existence is to help the town navigate the policies that it adopted a few years ago and to provide coordination of its activities,” Kezer explained. “The real work gets done by the professional staff, but the committee helps provide advice and guidance on how to go forward… It’s about looking at the interactions between different modes of transportation. It’s coordinating road, trailer, and pedestrian traffic.”

As an example of an area of focus, Kezer mentioned the rail trails in the town’s historic district that are supposed to facilitate bicycle travel. The narrow roads have the potential to make it difficult when there is a high volume of cars.

Kezer also noted how the Complete Streets Committee is appointed and governed by the Select Board, as opposed to TSAC which was created by bylaw.

When it came to Albert’s idea of dissolving Complete Streets in favor of TSAC, Kezer argued that both committees have more than enough reason to exist.

“There are a number of committees that exist with overlapping subject matters,” Kezer said. “If there was a committee that was irrelevant, I would recommend disbanding it…  The Complete Streets Committee has some overlap with Traffic and Safety, but in my opinion not to the extent that we need to disband this committee to suit his request.”

As far as developing a meeting schedule for the committee, Kezer was adamant that an ad-hoc meeting model is a fair approach for Complete Streets.

“We have lots of boards and committees, I happen to be chair for a number of them,” Kezer said. “The last thing I need is to have committee meetings for the sake of committee meetings.”