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Watertown goes on a 'road diet'

Payne Horning; Google Images
Watertown is updating some of its roads to make more lanes for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Earlier this year, Watertown opted to go on a road diet. The city adopted a complete streets policy to make its roads more accommodating for all users. That means adding new lanes for bicyclists and expanding pedestrian crosswalks.

City planner Geoff Urda says there’s been some backlash from residents because vehicles now have less room to maneuver. But Urda says that does not mean cars are being devalued.

Credit Payne Horning / WRVO News
The updated roads will include upgrades like bicycle lanes and turning lanes.

“Cars are simply given equal weight with other users," Urda said. "We’re not saying cars are not important, we’re just saying all users should be treated equally when it comes to using the road.”

Thus far, only two roads have been updated under the new policy - W. Main Street and Washington Street. There isn’t a target number for this initiative. Instead, Urda says any time the city begins a transportation project it will be put through the lens of complete streets to identity how safety can be improved.

"So we wouldn’t go out of our way to identify a complete streets treatment downtown, but if a downtown project was going to occur then that would go before the complete streets committee who would look at how you meet safety requirements," he said. 

Urda says these changes can add slightly to a project's budget, but not enough that it's "prohibitively costly."

Other cities in central New York, like Oswego, are also pursuing projects to make their roads more accessible for all users.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.