The Highway Division is responsible for maintenance and repair of approximately 72 miles of Town roadway and 144 miles of Town sidewalk, maintenance and repair of paved areas abutting or contained within Town facilities, and the review and issuance of relevant permits. The staff places tons of asphalt repairing and maintaining roadways, and installs screened loam and seed throughout the Town for landscaping border repairs.
The staff also conducts an enormous number of inspections for private contractors, Town road and construction projects and large scale private development projects throughout the Town, and approves and enforces permits for road work and for new state regulations for the “trenching” permits.
Traffic control is the jurisdiction of the Police Department.
The Town owns two street sweepers and performs street sweeping in-house. Street sweeping primarily takes place between the months of April and December, but occurs year-round based on weather conditions. Sweeping occurs overnight.
All residential streets are swept a minimum of twice per year. Main roads (e.g., Arsenal Street, Mt. Auburn St.) are swept weekly and connector roads (e.g. Waverley Ave.) are swept monthly.
Please use the service request form to report potholes. To help us locate and track potholes, please provide as much specific information as possible.
During the late winter and early spring, DPW staff will perform windshield surveys of the streets in Town. Based on these observations, a review of work order history, and in consideration of future capital needs, locations will be prioritized for repair.
Studies have shown pavement conditions worsen at an increasing rate as the pavement gets older. Restoration of pavement near the end of its service life will typically cost four to five times more than preventive routine maintenance.
DPW uses a variety of methods to maintain road conditions in the Town. The technique we choose depends on the condition and use of the road, the cost of the treatment, and other considerations. Some of the methods include:
• Crack sealing: crack sealing is typically applied on newer roads as a preventative maintenance technique. Cracks in the pavement allow for water runoff to enter the sub-surface pavement materials, which accelerates road deterioration. Crack sealing uses specialized materials to fill in the cracks while maintaining flexibility to stay bonded to the roadway surface.
• Permanent patch: permanent pavement patch is another preventative maintenance technique that is used in limited, localized areas of pavement deterioration. Permanent patch consists of cutting out the existing asphalt pavement, recompacting the material beneath, and then repaving the section.
• Mill and overlay: mill and overlay is used when surface pavement deterioration has advanced, but the structural materials beneath still have integrity. It consists of milling off and replacing the top 1.5” of pavement. Mill and overlay is significantly more cost-effective at extending the life of a roadway than full reconstruction. In Town, mill and overlay is typically used on shorter stretches of roadway (300 to 500-foot lengths) or shorter streets to prolong the life of the roadway.
Roadway Reconstruction Program
Roadway reconstruction is the most costly of rehabilitation methods, and is used when the structural materials of the roadway, located below the pavement surface, have exceeded their useful life. Roadway reconstruction entails removing and replacing the existing roadway, regrading of the road, and rehabilitation of the roadway base. Per Town Council directive, roads that undergo full reconstruction also receive granite curb installation, new concrete sidewalks and driveway aprons, and ADA-compliant accessible ramps.
Roads selected for roadway reconstruction are presented to and approved by the Town Council as part of the Town’s annual roadway reconstruction program. To learn more about this program, please visit: the annual Road Program page.
Residential Planting Strips
The planting strip is the area between the sidewalk and the street. In some areas they have been paved over, but in general they are planted with grass. It may be difficult to maintain a planting strip in some of our denser neighborhoods due to parking.
Please remember that the planting strip is not a parking area! Parking in the planting strip compacts the soil, kills the grass planted in it, and can lead to unattractive mud pits and bare areas.
Having trouble growing grass or want to create a more attractive planting strip? The Town has put together some information for residents about how to take care of the planting strip, please see the Planting Strip Flyer
The Town also has “help Watertown grow—please keep of planting strip” signs that can be placed to bring awareness to the issue. They can be picked up free of charge at DPW.