Selectmen want new intersection rebuilt; Board cites numerous complaints, accidents on roadway.
WEST BOYLSTON - The new intersection at Route 140 and Maple Street is due for a corrective overhaul after several selectmen last week told Public Works Director Silvio Baruzzi the final product just does not work.
Selectmen Chairman Allen Phillips told Baruzzi that every member of the board has received numerous complaints about the intersection, which, along with the neighboring Worcester Street intersection, were redesigned as part of a road construction project completed last month.
The intersection was originally wider, and traffic could flow off Route 140 at high rates of speed. In the redesign, the intersection was made into what officials have described as a "T" intersection, with a sharp turn required from traffic traveling south on Route 140.
The problem, Selectman Christopher Rucho pointed out, is that the turn is too sharp. Cars often have to cross into other lanes to complete the turn. Though the project is considered complete, the town has had to place barrels over a portion of the new intersection in an attempt to prevent cars from driving over a private lawn.
"Any intersection where you have to put barrels out, something is wrong," Rucho said.
Phillips pointed out that many of the barrels have been struck and damaged and the lawn is still marked by tire marks because larger vehicles cannot make the turn when cars are stopped at end of Maple Street.
Compounding the problem is that the Worcester Street intersection is the gateway to the town's sole industrial district, and now trucks cannot make the turn, Rucho said. Phillips noted that trucks now have to wait until no cars are in the busy intersections to clear the turns, which is leading to traffic delays. In addition, the area has seen an uptick in accidents, he said.
Baruzzi was hired after the project was designed and approved. However, he said engineers were told to build an intersection that would slow down traffic, improve visibility and to do so without any taking of land. Low berms, which are less visible to traffic and allow car traffic to pass over them, onto the lawn, were intentionally designed because snowplows would have difficulty making the turn.
Selectmen cited several potential fixes, from redesigning the intersection with an island, which would also slow traffic down, to simply removing the extension that creates the sharp turn."
"They take the corner and then speed up again anyway," Rucho said.
Baruzzi said it was expected that there would be a "learning curve" for drivers to adjust to the new intersections. One easy fix could be to install a rumble strip, similar to those used on highways, to make vehicles aware they are off the roadway, Baruzzi said.
Selectman John O'Brien noted, however, that adjusting the intersection does little to help trucks trying to enter an intersection they simply do not fit into.
"No one is being blamed," Phillips said. "The long and short of it is, it's not working and it needs to be fixed."
Phillips said the board understood the intention of the design, but in practical use, the completed project has failed. The Maple Street intersection needs to be redesigned immediately, Phillips said, with the support of other members. Selectmen also asked for changes to the Worcester Street corner to accommodate trucks.
Baruzzi was expected to report back to selectmen this week, after The Banner went to press. Earlier this week, the intersection had painted markings to indicate a reduction in size.
PHOTOG: Banner photo/MICHAEL KANE
CUTLINE: The newly reconstructed intersection at Maple Street and 140 is due to be reconstructed because of numerous complaints made to selectmen concerning turn radius.