Chestnut Hill Road residents petition selectmen to close off throughway traffic

by beth on September 20, 2021

Post image for Chestnut Hill Road residents petition selectmen to close off throughway traffic

Above: Residents of a narrow, rural, back road often used as a cut-through by speeding drivers are asking the Town to cordon off an area for recreational use only. (image from Google maps)

Over 60 residents have signed a letter asking the Town to abandon a center section of Chestnut Hill Road. Large trucks are already (technically) excluded from traversing the full the roadway. Now, they’d like to limit access for cars to the two way traffic sections at either end.

Residents urge sectioning off the one-way portion of the road past 10 Chestnut Hill Rd (and the trailhead parking lot) to the intersection with the new development on Dairy Farm Lane. Under their proposal, an auto-free zone in the center would still be used for runners, walkers and cyclists. Petitioners justify:

abandoning a section of the road would create a welcoming and safe environment for the public to utilize the Town’s natural, cultural, agricultural and outdoor recreational resources – which are more important now than ever – while at the same time reducing significant costs and potential liabilities for the Town.

The residents asked the Board of Selectmen to meet with them, then schedule a public hearing on the issue. The topic is on the agenda for the Board of Selectmen meeting this Tuesday, September 21st.*

The letter warns of dangers on the “narrow and slightly hilly portion” of the road to the many residents frequently drawn to it for recreation:

the quietude of the surrounding properties belies the hazards posed by the roadway itself.

Hazards include drivers’ “distressingly high speeds”, large trucks (despite an exclusion), and vehicles headed the wrong way (often at high speeds). They note that many drivers appear to use the road to “shave off” time in their commute to work or Algonquin. Yet, they point out that if drivers were following posted speeds the shortcut would actually take longer.

As for the cost savings, petitioners pitch:

Many of the trees surrounding the [identified section] are in poor condition. Fallen limbs and even trees are a regular result from inclement weather. The Town will not be obligated to prioritize tree removal and plowing. Without vehicular travel, the Abandoned Roadway can be paved and repaired less frequently. In addition, policing the speeding and unsafe travel on Chestnut Hill Road will be less of a burden.

The letter is signed by nine residents of Chestnut Hill Road, with an additional over 50 signatures of Town residents stating they support the request.

Among the main signatories is Whitney Beals. Four years ago, Beals alerted the Board to some of his safety concerns. The issue came up when officials tried to determine how to allow large vehicles to develop yet-to-be-built Dairy Farm Lane. (At the time, the one way section of the road extended to the Northborough Road intersection. The determined solution was converting that end of the road to two way traffic.) In a follow up meeting, Beals requested a speed hump to be installed.

To view the full letter submitted to selectmen with attachments, click here.

*Given it’s position on the agenda, as part of the Chair’s Update to the Board, this may just be to tee up the item for a future meeting.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 n September 21, 2021 at 11:32 AM

This is a public way, perhaps one of the most scenic and enjoyable in town that anyone with a car can enjoy.

I drive this section daily and it is the highlight of my commute. Yes, it takes longer but I do it to enjoy the protected farmland that we as a community paid $4 million plus to preserve.

Hard for me to believe that a few have the chutzpah to make such a request.

Two more observations:
1. How about fixing the culvert on Northboro road that was identified years ago to replace but delayed year after year to reduce tax increases? Or will closing that stretch for good be the next request?
2. Has anyone else noticed how much faster the traffic passes Main Street from Parkerville to Boston Road now that it is wide and smooth? Much easier to drive and it needed to be done, but the old road sure did slow people down….

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2 down with cars! October 2, 2021 at 12:52 PM

if you want to enjoy the scenery of chestnut hill, consider doing so in a safer, healthier, and less carbon-intensive way — that is, biking, walking, or running. society would be much better off if we stopped kowtowing to the desires of drivers and began designing towns and cities to be enjoyable for pedestrians.

think about it this way: closing off chestnut hill might inconvenience you by preventing you from driving through it and observing its scenery. but don’t you think that cars barreling down the road are also inconveniencing people who wish to enjoy the scenery without fearing for their life? i’ve cheated death a couple times on that road, and i shouldn’t have to. suck it up and find an alternate route.

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3 resident October 4, 2021 at 10:19 AM

If you want to enjoy the scenery, then take the trails on the property. Don’t inconvenience everybody else so that you can bike, walk or run where ever you think you want to. If you decide to use that road, then you know the risks. There is a great argument to close off many roads in the town for the same reason, but in all seriousness it just isn’t going to happen. When you enjoy the scenery by any of the means you mention on that road, you know what you are up against. You can enjoy the scenery anywhere. Choices my friend, choices. When you choose Chestnut Hill Road, you made a choice and you know the consequences that comes with,.

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4 Kelly Roney October 4, 2021 at 5:22 PM

Like real mixed use downtown!

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5 Resident September 22, 2021 at 10:36 AM

I would like to request that my street be blocked off as well. Living on a road that connects routes 30 & 9, we see heavy cut through traffic. My guess is that most of traffic that comes bombing through my neighborhood is not Southborough residents coming from/going to their own home. Most likely, it’s people headed south from Marlborough or people headed north from Hopkinton. I want only Southborough residents traveling through my neighborhood. I want my street to be restricted to Southborough residents only.

Ok, I’m being sarcastic and a little ridiculous. I’m just trying to highlight that the speeding problem is throughout the entire town. Didn’t we address this at town meeting? What I would truly like to see is speeding tickets being handed out and red-light jumpers (such as at rt9& Oak Hill, rt9 & White Bagley) being ticketed. When heavy ticketing happens, the word gets out and drivers do slow down.

My whole family, as ‘n’ above has illustrated, enjoys the most pleasant drive on Chestnut Hill. It’s rather elitist of residents who signed the petition to think that such a beautiful drive should be available to only a few residents.

And I have to chuckle at the word “quietude” as a landscaping company goes speeding by while I am composing my comment.
It’s only going to worsen should the proposed bylaw for downtown passes at special town meeting on November 1st.

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6 Get in Line!!! September 22, 2021 at 4:04 PM

All this wailing and gnashing of teeth over Oak Hill Rd.!

Get over it!

The ENTIRE TOWN suffers from cut-through traffic! This has been confirmed by Chief Paulhus in conversations we’ve had about getting traffic under control on the street where I live – Parkerville Rd. There are two (2) schools located on this street with a twice (2X) daily speed reduction zones of 20 MPH. Do you for one second believe ANYONE goes 20 MPH? The parents, racing to drop off/pick up their little darlings are easily going double that (40 MPH) and even the almost completely EMPTY school buses are easily going 30-35 – while the signs are FLASHING 20 MPH.

Yes, traffic speeds have increased on Main St. since it’s been repaved. Consider Parkerville Rd’s. location ad the bottom of a valley on Main St. Even though it’s POSTED 25 MPH westbound on Main St. (which cars pass by going 35-40 MPH), what speed do you think they’re going by the time they reach the bottom of the incline at Parkerville? It’s the same issue with cars coming into town from the west. They’ve likely been going 50 MPH across the long straight flat on route 30, just east of the 495 underpass, zoom up the hill at the farm, then back down again and pick up any speed they may have shed as they pass by Sears Rd.

IIRC, at one time there was a sign on route 30 in the vicinity of Wyndemere Rd. indicating 30 MPH.

The bottom line is THE ENTIRE TOWN suffers from speeders – AND the police are AWARE of the issue.

I have REPEATEDLY requested radar traps/enforcement/etc. and have been repeatedly denied my requests by the police department. Frustrated? You bet! Instead, we see cars on route 9 getting pulled over. Almost NOBODY in Southborough LIVES ON ROUTE 9!
(EXCEPTION: One time, 2 or 3 years ago after I made an enforcement request, a black&white police cruiser parked in my driveway, visible from both directions, and used radar to measure the speed of oncoming traffic. Of course drivers could easily spot the vehicle and slowed their approach).

So, if we’re not going to enforce the speed limits, how about installing TRAFFIC CALMING devices? I have also proposed this multiple times. Having driven in Europe several times, I have encountered these devices in many, many places. They DO work. If you drive through them or over them going to fast, you’ll severely damage your vehicle.

Why the reluctance to install traffic calming devices? Add chicanes to straight streets OR create single lane bottlenecks OR build “speed tables” that actually work. I watch in horror as (typically soccer moms in their expen$ive SUVs) routinely fly over the Parkerville Rd. speed tables far above (1.5X) the posted limit – which, by the way, is 30 MPH, stated so just beneath the THICKLY SETTLED signs at the route 9 and route 30 ends of Parkerville Rd. The Parkerville Rd. speed tables MAY have worked “one upon a time” but they’ve either sunk into the road bed (built on top of a swamp) or become worn down to the point they’re now almost COMPLETELY ineffective.

So Oak Hill Rd. residents, while I feel your pain – and frustration – you’re not the only Southborough location with traffic issues. FAR from it.

Middle Rd. is another location with traffic issues. It’s posted 25 MPH. No sidewalks. It even has flashing “YOUR SPEED” signs, which apparently serve to set new land speed records.

Speed cameras are illegal in the Commonwealth. Nice proposal and it’s not going to fly.

Again, if the town isn’t going to provide law enforcement actions to address the speeding issues – and evidence to date strongly suggests this – then the town needs to take steps to make all of these SPEEDING ZONES less attractive to that activity.

Where’s the leadership?

The populace is not happy, the BOS “empathizes”, wants to “fix” the problems, yet doesn’t want to do anything that might impinge on anybody’s freedom. It’s not going to get corrected til something changes. How about another “study”? Better yet – how about actually DOING something?

So far it’s: Flagg Rd, Oak Hill Rd and Parkerville Rd making their concerns public. I’m sure there are more streets. I’ve encountered vehicles whizzing by on Deerfoot Rd, which is posted 25 MPH. I see people DAILY whizzing by eastbound on Main St. past Fay School – posted 25 MPH, easily going 40 MPH and occasionally holding and/or reading a cell phone in their hands.

Nice.

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7 Resident September 23, 2021 at 8:04 AM

I hear your frustration loud and clear. You seam to understand that speeding traffic is a town wide problem. So, I’m not sure why you are saying “get in line” or “get over it”.
I don’t live on any of the streets you have mentioned, but I am very concerned by the serious accidents that have happened on Oak Hill and I don’t want that to happen there again or anywhere else in town. I think banding together instead of pitting ourselves (or our streets) against each other would result in a more positive outcome. Although, I’m not sure how to do that. Open to suggestions…

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8 resident September 23, 2021 at 8:45 AM

While I agree with most of what you said, it is impossible with the current staffing levels to monitor the roads as the residents seem to want. Would we be willing to up the budget for the police to add staff so more monitoring could happen. Perhaps we could have a traffic control unit as Westborough does with a blacked out cruiser. They seem to be everywhere. If this is all such an issue, maybe that is the solution. Remember what the cost of this would be: at least 6 more officers, at least 3-4 more cruisers, benefits for the officers, uniforms, and if they haven’t been to the academy, they need to be sponsored, etc. We are talking a LOT of money in our taxes. If that is what you really feel you want, then propose it and work on a committee to get it. I don’t think it is a bad idea, but the cost would be astronomical.

The Chief of Police likes to play nice and wants the residents to be happy with him. We should like him but it is hard to like him when he continually makes excuses for what should be a easy fix. He keeps his budget tight and doesn’t like to make waves. He would never go for a traffic unit just like he wont go for a police dog. So when we need one, we have to call a neighboring community and wait for them to show up. He doesn’t work in the best interest of the town. He works in the best interest of Ken Paulhus. Let’s get somebody in that position who really wants what is best for the residents and is not so self-serving. Write money tickets to every person that is speeding. Maybe when these people have the fines adding up it will finally make them slow down. No warnings just money. Hit them where it hurts.

The bottom line is that the Police manpower is an issue and the leadership too. Until we fix the bottom line, nothing will change no matter how much we whine.

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9 beth September 23, 2021 at 9:47 AM

I don’t agree that Chief Paulhus is keeping his “budget tight” to serve himself. He is pushed to keep his budget tight by selectmen and the Advisory Committee who are trying to keep all of the Town’s overhead low. Whether the budget is too big, too small, or just right is debatable. There certainly isn’t a general perception in the town that the SPD budget is too small.

That’s not to say a budget increase for more policing of traffic isn’t possible. Town Meeting voters usually support budget increases when there is consensus there is a justified need.

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10 southsider October 4, 2021 at 9:17 AM

Not sure we need a budget increase to better police traffic… maybe it’s just time for the BOS and Chief to demand more focus on it from the staff. let’s try that first before we spend more money to hire people and buy more vehicles.

11 Voter September 22, 2021 at 3:22 PM

I propose we make all roads in town one way cul-de-sacs.

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12 Resident September 23, 2021 at 8:05 AM

😅🤣😂

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13 resident September 22, 2021 at 4:29 PM

I think we should block off Oak Hill Road at the Ashland line as well. This is pure ridiuclousness. We are not living in the 1900s with horse and carriages and Mr. Beals who constantly yells at passing cars, doesn’t own the road.

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14 Tim Martel September 23, 2021 at 10:46 AM

Biggest problem we have is traffic congestion on Route 9 that MassDot has repeatedly refused to solve, and which creates overflow into our side streets as commuters get routed by GPS to avoid traffic.

What folk don’t seem to understand is that pushing traffic off Route 9 and onto our side roads is exactly what MassDot has wanted all along, because its a cheap solution to their highway problems. Why do you suppose they were willing to pay for us to renovate the 85/30 intersection and put in turn lanes?

This will not be solved locally. A “global” traffic study will help only if it turns into a Regional effort to push our State reps to take action against MassDot.

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15 northsider October 13, 2021 at 1:07 PM

And with Park Central, we’ll surely see even more of a disaster at the 9/495 area and all of the side roads.

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16 Kelly Roney September 23, 2021 at 1:24 PM

Can we please learn one of the few positive lessons of the Covid pandemic? If we want our highways to work better, we have to recognize how many people can be in the office only half their working days. If that’s 60% of the workforce, we’d immediately reduce highway traffic during rush hour by 30%!

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17 Townie September 23, 2021 at 5:12 PM

No enforcement is ever done on the side roads. Look at the police logs, most is on rt 9

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18 resident September 27, 2021 at 9:11 AM

I completely disagree with this comment. I have personally seen police presence on Oak Hill Road, Boston Road, Central Street, and Oregon Road. I have seen very excessive speeding on Route 9 in addition to the constant running of red lights which some people either clearly don’t understand what a red light is or think it doesn’t apply to them. I was on Route 9 recently going 60 and was passed like I was standing still. The person had to be going 80 easy. We need to patrol that road as well. Again, once a cruiser is seen doing traffic control in an area, everybody warns the other drivers and they all slow down, making the point mute. We need traffic control on every road including Route 9. We need more staff to do so and that also means more vehicles. We should be rallying to get the staffing up to snuff so we can control the speed on the roads. Are you willing to do that with your tax dollars? If you complain, you should be! All the roads in town need to be patrolled and speeders stopped and tickets (not warnings) written. Make the speeders pay for the deed. We should be supporting our officers who are doing the best they can with what they have. Remember, what they do or don’t do starts at the top with the Chief. The officers can only do what they are told.

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19 northsider October 13, 2021 at 1:08 PM

there is a police presence on Flagg/Deerfoot regularly.

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20 Southern Breeze September 26, 2021 at 10:50 AM

With the portion of Northborough Road being temporarily closed at this time, it is a good illustration that closing Chestnut Hill Road would create an issue if there was ever an problem on Johnson Road. That would create a “cant get there from here” situation that is somewhat served by having Chestnut Hill open. Not to mention that not all people are physically able to walk or ride to the beautiful view provided by the wonderful Beals property.

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