Town Meeting article seeks to create traffic committee

Dan Albert is sponsoring a citizen’s article at Town Meeting to form a traffic commission. Photo by Spenser Hasak

Marblehead has 40 boards and committees, according to the town’s website. Dan Albert wants voters to add another.

Albert is the lead sponsor of article 49, entitled “creation of a Traffic Advisory Committee,” on the warrant for the May 1 Annual Town Meeting. The article — one of 11 sponsored by citizens on this year’s warrant — asks Town Meeting to vote to create a committee that would essentially function as a way for citizens to get their voices heard on issues regarding traffic.

According to the text of the article, the committee would report to the Select Board on a quarterly basis. It would be comprised of three residents appointed by the board who are not town employees, along with additional members from town departments responsible for relevant public safety maintenance.

In an interview last week, Albert explained that the proposal is ultimately about creating safer streets across town. A resident of Marblehead for the past 15 years, Albert said he began paying close attention to issues of traffic and road safety when a teenager was killed crossing Pleasant Street more than a decade ago.

“Now’s really the time and that’s why I stepped up,” he said, adding that in recent years the town implemented new signs, crossings, and school zones in part thanks to state and federal funds coming in. Marblehead is “doing all these things in different ways in silos.”

“I really felt like this would help the town put it on a firm footing,” he said.

The committee’s purpose, according to the article, would be to “implement the Marblehead Complete Streets Policy and evaluate public safety issues involving traffic, roads, and other transportation infrastructure in the town.” It would hold monthly meetings with its chair rotating on an annual basis.

“Meetings will provide a forum for residents to come to the town with traffic issues and conduct any other business related to its function as described in this article,” it reads.

Albert said the committee itself would not have the power to amend any of the town’s traffic rules and regulations, but would instead make recommendations to the Select Board during its quarterly reports. The board would then make a determination on the recommendations, which Albert said he expected would pass with little objection.

“My expectation would be after the committee’s done its research and its homework, the board likely wouldn’t say no,” he said.

Should Albert’s proposal win approval, Marblehead would join many of its neighbors in having a committee dedicated to issues of traffic.

Swampscott’s traffic advisory committee functions under a strikingly similar process as the one put forward by Albert, and Salem also has a Traffic and Parking Commission comprised of residents, a designee from the Police Department, and the director of traffic and parking.

Albert was confident the committee would be able to find residents interested in serving in a volunteer capacity.

He said while traffic is not a front-of-mind issue for most, he has found residents, when prompted, have a bevy of opinions.

“People think about this stuff,” he said. “It’s not something you go around talking about at cocktail parties [but] as soon as someone asks, stuff just flows out.”

As he worked to draft the article, Albert consulted with a number of town officials, including a member of the Select Board he said urged him to push it forward in the first place. He credited Town Moderator Jack Attridge and PowerUP01945 for their aid in crafting the article, the first one he has created.

“​​All I did was pick up the phone and [Attridge] was more than happy to talk to me about what is a Town Meeting article and whether something ought to be a Town Meeting article,” Albert said, adding that he “never would’ve had the courage, the wherewithal to do this” without PowerUP01945.

Albert said he could have attempted to draft the article to create the “perfect” committee in his view, but opted to leave the parameters wider to allow town officials to amend the bylaw as they see fit.

“It’s been a lot of fun but it was tricky to figure out,” he said. “I hope and I think I have the right balance.”