Decision Time on Moody Closure

By Chris Wangler
April 19, 2023


The Waltham Traffic Commission is expected to decide Thursday on whether to close down a portion of Moody Street for a fourth consecutive year. 


It’s a complicated issue, and whatever the commission decides will inevitably upset some.

Over the last three summers, with the pandemic still a reality, the city closed down a stretch of the street from Pine to High Streets, leaving a small section for cars to pass through and park.


A few weeks ago, almost 30 supporters of the pedestrian zone voiced support for the closure during a special meeting of the commission.


They argued that the shutdown created a unique family- and carbon-friendly amenity that attracted visitors and even people who ultimately settled in Waltham.

It was also a boon to restaurants, which invested in tents, furniture and fencing to take full advantage of the opportunity during the pandemic.


But without COVID as a justification, can city officials intentionally disadvantage opposing small business owners and abutting residents? 

Roughly a dozen opponents argued that the 24-7 closure damaged their livelihoods, took away storefront parking and limited accessibility.


See video above for a recap of the differing perspectives and two plans under consideration. 

The Bigger Picture

There’s more at stake than simply the street closure. Whatever Waltham does could set the tone for other communities mulling similar closures.

Then there’s the political implications.

The commission is considering plans from two prospective mayoral candidates: longtime incumbent mayor Jeannette McCarthy and Ward 9 city councilor Jonathan Paz, who intends to run for the top job this fall.

If the mayor’s department heads on the commission decide to vote for Paz’s plan and repeat the previous closure, it would be a humbling blow to her while offering his campaign a boost.

Meanwhile, a commission vote for the mayor’s plan would shore up her support and rob Paz of much-needed momentum as an underdog candidate with only 4 years’ experience.

A third alternative is possible. The commission, seeing neither alternative as satisfactory, could vote not to do anything.

Whatever the outcome, the potential for a future Moody Street closure will remain.

Could the city, for instance, hire a professional planning firm to collect data, as speakers on both sides requested, and recommend alternatives that meet the needs of all stakeholders?