Selectmen pursuing “global” study to help guide decisions on truck traffic in town

by beth on September 13, 2021

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Selectmen agree with Flagg Road residents that tractor trailers pose a safety issue for their street. However, the Board isn’t willing to pursue changes to truck routes without studying potential impacts to other roads. 

Last week, the Board of Selectmen discussed funding a “global study” of traffic patterns, especially of tractor trailers and other large vehicles traveling through Southborough. 

The Board is hoping to get enough information to help them determine which streets make the most sense to have a Heavy Commercial Vehicle Exclusion (HCVE).  Just the whiff of a potential change to current HCVEs already caused alarm on one street.

The HCVE issue stems from Flagg Road resident complaints about safety hazards caused by tractor trailers driving down their narrow, windy sidewalkless road. Residents have noted that many kids walk and bike to nearby schools. A Citizen’s Petition for selectmen to pursue state approval of an HCVE on Flagg prevailed at Annual Town Meeting.

Following up, Public Works had a traffic study of Flagg Road conducted in early May. According to DPW Superintendent Karen Galligan, the results showed the road does qualify to apply for an exclusion. However, selectmen would need to identify the alternate route for trucks to take to get from one side of Flagg to the other. That needs to be in both directions. Rerouting down Deerfoot and Clifford Road wasn’t seen as ideal.

In order to propose Main Street as part of an alternate route, the Board would need to lift Main Street’s own HCVE.*

Selectmen could identify Main Street as part of an alternate route if they agree to lift its HCVE. Board members discussed that Main Street would be a safer road – it’s wider with more sidewalks. However, they worried about unintended consequences, especially for other back roads.

Some residents and officials have posited that the trucks on Flagg mostly result from drivers missing the entrance to Ken’s Foods on Route 9 and seeking a quick turnaround. However, Galligan opined otherwise. She pointed out that the study showed the same number of trucks traveling in the opposite direction on Flagg. She also referenced reasons that large trucks can have local destinations (e.g, moving trucks, delivering joists to new houses being constructed).

Selectman Marty Healey said he couldn’t make an informed choice about lifting the HCVE without better understanding the potential impacts. He wanted data on where trucks are coming from and going to. He also wanted an assessment of what changes could lead to on other roads. Most members agreed that further study was warranted. Board members worried that bringing more trucks to Main Street might result in heavier travel on other small roads.

More context on what a broad study would entail and cost was requested by the Board in their August 17th meeting. Last Wednesday, Town Administrator Mark Purple told the Board that Public Work’s consultant VHB responded close to the meeting. They estimated about $22K including labor. 

Selectman Andrew Dennington expressed concern about paying for another traffic study on top of many others conducted in recent years. He wanted more detail defined as to what VHB would be studying.

The Board discussed adding the study as a Warrant Article for the Special Town Meeting. In later public comment, Main Street resident Tim Fling wondered why it was necessary to wait. He asked if it could be covered by the road works budget. Purple told selectmen he would follow up with Galligan to see if Chapter 90 funds could be used.

A representative for the Flagg Road neighborhood, Jonas Linden, argued that more studies aren’t needed to pursue a protection for Flagg Road. At both the August and September meetings, Linden urged that the Board had the information they needed to move forward.

Last week, Chair Lisa Braccio responded that she had received calls from worried Main Street residents. Lifting the HCVE could attract many more trucks that currently aren’t taking back roads through town. (Some commenters were raising an alarm in blog comments in recent weeks. It began with a comment complaining that indicated selectmen were considering lifting the HCVE without explaining any context.)

Selectmen agreed that whatever they learn in a study will lead to making some hard choices. They made several references to the number of complaints they hear from residents on other problematic roads. Proving the point was another item on last week’s agenda. Residents of Oak Hill Road are asking the Board to help reduce traffic accidents on their street. (I’ll cover that in a separate post later this week.)

In August, Braccio also told Galligan she would like to talk to MassDOT about options for signage on Route 9 and other ways to discourage trucks from turning onto Flagg.

*Note: If you’ve seen large trucks on Main Street, that’s because trucks are allowed to travel it if their destination is local.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 n September 14, 2021 at 10:08 AM

*Note: If you’ve seen large trucks on Main Street, that’s because trucks are allowed to travel it if their destination is local.

sometimes this may be true. many times it is not. I’ve followed many trucks both directions on rt 30 from rt 9 in Westboro or from the Cimarino exit on 495 to rt 9 in Framingham that never stopped.

It’s a way to avoid traffic jams, morning and night, and particularly on Friday afternoons during rush hour.

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2 TRUCK EXCLUSION NOW September 14, 2021 at 10:21 AM

No more runaround and irresponsible delays. Flagg Road qualifies for a heavy commercial vehicle exclusion. Now. Period. Did Latisquama Road exclusion require “additional” study? No. Resident sponsors got high praise from BOS and the exclusion happened. Fast forward: Latisquama records of exclusion efforts, looked to for example purposes, apparently have gone completely “missing.” How about the tractor trailer towed off the Trottier / Neary school children’s footpath on Flagg? Or the tractor trailers taking down power lines, ending up on residents’ front lawns, crashing and scraping utility poles? It is outright illogical and negligent to think “discouraging” trucks is the solution. Those trucks don’t care and are not discouraged, especially when Route 9 backs up. Flagg and neighborhood residents want the truck exclusion and they want it now, without further study or runaround. No more studies. At this anchor in time, this end of town gets the priority consideration. With BOS support of the EDC harmful and life altering attempt to clog downtown with more density and development, where will those trucks go? How about the ridiculous proposed mammoth expansion to Ken’s Warehouse on Route 9? Take a look at the application for application for special permit (what else?) for “Lower Impact Development” for this monstrous addition (Beth, can you post link?). Have you noticed that traffic has increased, since school has started and in general?

The link above to the latest ludicrous DPW feedback needs to be viewed by everyone. The recommendation to go get Westborough’s permission is not only nonsensical, it is a false argument. (Do you think they ask our permission? They’ve ruined their own streets with impassable clog). Trucks can use Route 9 and I-495. Anyone who suggests otherwise should be fired. Not everything that requires simple common sense requires a study. This BOS has a different agenda. They have to send the trucks somewhere, especially with their reckless run-roughshod over residents to overdevelop downtown. Between that and upcoming development proposals, BOS should support residents. Residents have had to endure the unendurable already with Route 9 and 495. BOS and residents should just say no: no more trucks, clog, noise, smell, danger to children, night traffic, vibration. ENOUGH. Truck exclusion for Flagg / Deerfoot now, please!

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3 Jon September 14, 2021 at 11:25 AM

If you’ve ever traveled flagg you know these trucks don’t belong on this road. The impact to other roads like Main Street in comparison is a no brained. Trucks on Main Street can maneuver and deal with the surroundings. Main St and others are like 3 lane highways in comparison to flagg. Flagg has 0 sidewalks, barely enough room for 2 cars to pass, leads to the schools. this doesn’t take 22k in a study to know. I feel like this is a stall tactic. Drive down it, make the right decision and act on it.

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4 Jeff Rudd September 14, 2021 at 1:06 PM

A truck exclusion does no good without enforcement. Middle rd has had a truck exclusion for a few years and the trucks still use it.

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5 R Jackson September 14, 2021 at 2:21 PM

When elected officials or committees don’t want to answer hard questions and make decisions, the alternate path is to wait for a study. Accountability and common sense would save us all some money. BOS, please stop taking lessons from EDC. EDC has mastered spending grant funds on studies, hiring useless consultants, and, when all else fails, shamelessly blaming others for their own ineptitude. Enough is enough. BOS, you don’t need to commission a study on the traffic patterns around the entire town to decide if a semi truck should be going down a small side street with no sidewalks. Do your job and stop wasting our time and money.

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6 TRUCK EXCLUSION NOW September 15, 2021 at 6:42 AM

R Jackson, you are spot on. You left out one bit about the EDC and the useless consultants and wastes of taxpayer money: a chief consultant of the proposed candy store downtown zoning giveaway to developers is the SAME law firm as new town counsel. New town counsel is the money partner of the attorney who helped craft the zoning giveaway. This may be how it worked out, but it does not feel right. As for Flagg Road, isn’t it gross negligence to ignore towing an 18 wheeler tractor trailer off the children’s footpath to school? Take a look at the application for special permit (of course!) and who got hired to push that monstrosity along. This “addition” is the size of another full size building (which should be built or leased elsewhere). Presumably more product requires shipping, trucks, and truck traffic (never mind noise, vibrations, and other controversial impacts). This side of town and its residents should be represented by town leaders, not ignored and not shoved aside with excuses, delays, and “studies.” Enough traffic, clog, tractor trailers, noise, emissions, overdevelopment, studies, lack of accountability, and bullshit.

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7 Jack September 15, 2021 at 1:40 PM

I’m a little confused. In order to propose the exclusion on Flagg and Deerfoot, we would need to show an alternate route, which would require lifting the exclusion on Main Street? Isn’t it clear that trucks are using Flagg and Deerfoot to either get to Main Street, or looping back on Rt 9? They are not allowed on one destination (Main Street), and the other destination can be reached by turning around on 495 / 85. No alternative required.

We should not need to lift the exclusion on Main Street, we should enforce that existing exclusion, and maybe then trucks would also stop using Flagg/Deerfoot.

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8 David Parry September 17, 2021 at 11:00 AM

The above comment is exactly on point. Readers please read it again, carefully.

Before spending another $25,000 on yet another study, potentially leading to removal of a truck restriction on Main St (which protects not only Main St, but also all side streets connecting to Main, and which many residents will therefore want retained), it would seem advisable to take the suggestion of Chair Lisa Braccio … Which is to meet with MassDOT and seek their help. For instance, get more effective signs installed on Rt 9, just BEFORE Flagg Rd.

Another study will not tell us the reason WHY trucks are taking certain routes. ( E.g. Are they lost? Making a local delivery? Tying to circulate back to Rt9 to get to Ken’s Foods? Trying to get to Main then on to Northboro Rd and the Marlboro industrial park? Or something else entirely?) There will not be anyone asking questions. Just dumb wheel counters on roadways. A study will only tell us how many trucks, and in what direction. So a study is unlikely to provide the answers.

Lisa Braccio suggested taking our State Rep to the MassDOT meeting. Sensible. Demand action.

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9 BOS - asleep at the wheel? September 16, 2021 at 4:39 PM

Alternate route?

Are you kidding?

If Flagg Rd. is the primary route for these heavy trucks – and the question is, “to what destination?”, then what is the so-called alternate route?

Is the Southborough BOS sleeping or just trying to “play dumb”?

These heavy trucks are ending up on Flagg and other residential streets because they’re LOST and trying to get to their destination – MOST LIKELY Ken’s Foods on route 9.

The so-called alternate route is the route they SHOULD be using.

Get it?

Why does this board repeatedly complicate and obfuscate what are otherwise simple and straightforward issues? Is it the result of too much legal training? Remember the acronym KISS, Keep It Simple, Stupid…

Hello??? McFly?!?

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10 beth September 17, 2021 at 7:54 AM

The possibility that many are trying to turn around on back roads rather than use 495 and route 9 to get back to Ken’s is one of the items Chair Lisa Braccio wants to discuss with MassDOT. That alternate route issue is based on the state agency’s requirement for the HCVE process. The most recent study conducted doesn’t support the theory that trucks were rerouting after missing Ken’s, since the same number of trucks headed in the opposite direction. Further study is hoped to help selectmen determine where trucks are headed to and from.

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11 mike fuce September 17, 2021 at 10:22 AM

Why are you all always so harsh toward the non paying position of the BOS? I am amazed at the aggressive tone concerning people who volunteer to work for our town. Please be a little more thankful with kind and stop throwing punches from the keyboard. If you don’t like it, then get elected yourselves. Personally, I think they all do a very good job, no one is perfect.

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12 Mchl_fc@yahoo.com September 20, 2021 at 8:59 AM

As a correction to my own comment above, I stopped to speak with Sam Stivers Current board of selectmen member at the transfer station this weekend and he said they do receive $1000 per year. Sam also mentioned like President Trump, he chose to not take his salary.In Trump gave his salary for four years to the “Wounded Warriors Foundation”. Now those are good examples and choices.

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13 roxanneperro2@gmail.com September 18, 2021 at 11:13 PM

Thank god, they don’t get paid. Can you imagine paying these people to make continuous decisions that consistantly impact the taxpayers of this town negatively, with every decision they make. You must be very rich, to keep patting these BOS members on the back for picking your pockets for their own good. Please wake up. They don’t work for you, but their own interests.

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14 Mike fuce September 20, 2021 at 8:53 AM

This is my whole point. What does Rich mean? That’s a very relative term. Am I wealthy? I don’t know? Not compared to my neighbor. Was I wealthy when I lived on Mitchell Street in a $300,000 home? I don’t know, maybe to the guy down the street. Stop the class warfare please. As a personal note, I started with nothing in life, I went into the military at 17 years old, I put myself through college, I scrimped and saved to buy my first home and I haven’t changed that idea my entire life. I’m not saying you should do that, that’s your choice, correct? But thank God, at least for now, we still have that choice individually. Concerning your comments about the BOS, maybe you should run for the board of selectmen the next time around. Put your ideas out there and let us know if we should vote for you. I couldn’t do it because too many people don’t like me but I support everyone’s right to voice their opinions, run for office and let the people decide.

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15 Resident of Flagg September 23, 2021 at 1:01 PM

I took these pics on Saturday driving behind this truck. The truck came from rte. 9. He was in front of me pretty much from Ullmans. The pics tell the rest but as you can see, he made it through Deerfoot and onto Flagg. Many residents walking tried to wave him down. What was shocking was the lady driving that SUV in the pic literally had to pull out of the way, not even sure how she managed that but this guy was not stopping for ANYONE! Sorry cant share the pics. I’ll look for a way to send them out.

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16 beth September 24, 2021 at 11:57 AM

I worked with “Resident of Flagg” to upload three (from many) pictures: photo 1 photo 2 photo 3

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17 Jonas Linden September 24, 2021 at 3:27 PM

That is very scary!

Thanks so much for sharing. Here is a copy of the e-mail I just sent to the Southborough Board of Selectmen:

“We had another incident with a truck on Flagg Rd yesterday, see attached pictures and post on (copied below) http://www.mysouthborough.com/2021/09/13/selectmen-pursuing-global-study-to-help-guide-decisions-on-truck-traffic-in-town/#comment-420762

We need the BoS to act on the truck exclusion and get it submitted to MassDOT as soon as possible! What are the next steps here? Can we get it on the agenda for the next meeting?”

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18 Resident of Flagg September 27, 2021 at 9:02 AM

Thank you for sending that. I also sent one to the Chief of police. This needs to be resolved as soon as possible! Someone will lose their life or get seriously hurt. There’s a lot of foot traffic on that road to have trucks like these plowing through the street.

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19 southsider September 26, 2021 at 9:37 AM

Wow… unacceptable!
Allow me to suggest a few full shifts of police overtime to patrol Flagg and Deerfoot and simply make it known to these truck drivers that we expect them to stay on more appropriate roads. The word will spread ( hopefully ) and we may be able to also obtain a bit more info on where these guys are travelling to/from.
This was reckless driving.

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20 roxanneperro2@gmail.com October 1, 2021 at 8:25 PM

The decisions made by BOS and ZONING are RECKLESS. Why must the taxpayers and citizens traveling on Flagg Rd., whether walking, driving or riding a bike, take their lives in their hands, because these two boards have their own agendas with builders. This town has become a wasteland of corruption, dishonesty, and self interest.

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