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Friday, December 22, 2006

The dark streets of Newton


A street light stands by the spot on Woodland Road where 22-year-old Kevin Flaherty was struck and killed by a car as he was walking back to his Lasell College dormitory shortly after midnight last September.

The night of the accident, the light was out, according to the police report. The dark street light was not found to be a contributing factor, but the incident has prompted Newton to address its recent problems maintaining street lights.

‘‘We’re all very saddened by the tragedy,’’ said Jeremy Solomon, spokesman for Mayor David B. Cohen. ‘‘If any good could come of such a terrible incident, it is that we are reforming our street light policy... Obviously, the maintenance of our street lights is a matter of public safety.’’

The list of street lights with burned-out bulbs or faulty wiring has been growing for more than a year. No one knows for sure how many there are, as only now is the city preparing a maintenance roster of its 8,486 street lights.

Lasell students conducted a petition drive asking for better lighting on Woodland Road and met with the mayor earlier this month. The city said it has outstanding citizen complaints for about 250 lights, about 3 percent of the total.

A Globe West survey suggests the percentage could be much higher. Nighttime drives last week down major thoroughfares in eight neighborhoods — Newton Centre, Auburndale, West Newton, Lower Falls, Nonantum, Newtonville, Newton Highlands, and Upper Falls — showed:

* More than a quarter of the lights out on Walnut Street between Crafts Street and Route 9;
* Some 15 percent out on westbound Commonwealth Avenue from Hammond to Lexington streets, and;
* More than 10 percent out on Winchester Street.

-- Connie Paige

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