Last week, the Board of Selectmen heard from concerned residents living on or by Parmenter and Pine Hill roads. They were seeking to explore safety improvements on roads reported as having 72 accidents over the last 12 years.
This summer, after a serious crash, residents pushed for the Town to look into safety hazards at the intersection. The Department of Public Works commissioned a study over the summer and recently began implementing changes recommended by consultants in their report. Many neighbors worried if steps being taken are enough or the right ones.
In early November, area residents submitted a letter and petitions with close to 50 signatures, asking selectmen to review the report and hear their concerns. Selectmen agreed.
Chair John Rooney stressed that residents don’t need a petition to bring an issue to the board. “That’s not the way this board is going to operate.” Concerned residents can come as an individual or a group to ask for a discussion.
Speaking for the group, John Tommaney responded that they wanted to make sure the board understood they weren’t just a couple of residents:
This is a significant number of the residents that live in the area that have been having extensive dialogues over this issue for a couple of months. And in many cases, a couple of years.
Tommaney presented the feedback collected from residents. He explained that they are concerned about more than the intersection, “but the entirety of both roadways.”
The biggest trouble spots were the intersection, the “S curve” around 78 Pine Hill Road where there have been a number of accidents, a straight away with excessive speeds, and a rise in the roadway with visibility issues. Selectman Paul Cimino remarked:
I’ve almost been hit at all three of the danger areas. . .
It’s something that has to be adressed at some point – soon.
Hazards pointed to included the roads’ narrowness, choke points, excessive speed and increased volume, especially commercial vehicle traffic. There were also complaints of impatient drivers passing other cars and cars driving along the center of the road.
Tommaney also pointed out that the area is “significantly outside” the emergency response time compared to most of the community.
The presenter acknowledged and thanked the Town for the steps they had already taken: increased police enforcement, the study, new speed limit signs, and painting of a yellow centerline. But residents were looking for more.
Based on Tommaney’s survey of the group, support for the steps recommended by the Town’s consultants ranged from 81.6% support for removing trees/vegetation blocking sightlines down to 30.6% support of regrading the roadway.
And residents had additional suggestions outside of the report. Co-presenter Ginger Ruddy clarified that the list wasn’t a “collaborative effort” by the neighborhood. They were suggestions from different individuals. For Pine Hill Road, those included reducing speed limit, placing speed bumps, and limiting commercial traffic/banning commercial parking.
Tommaney said residents also wanted to understand the reports recommendation that if steps taken don’t work, then they would look at a three-way stop sign. He pointed out that the three-way stop was much less expensive than regrading and other solutions.
Consulting engineer Robert Michaud explained that the intersection doesn’t meet the criteria for an all way stop. But there could be conditions that develop in the future that would change that (e.g., significant increase in traffic from Parmenter or pedestrian activity).
Tommaney responded that the report citing few pedestrians may have missed the many people who cut through neighbors yards to avoid the dangerous roads. He said that the nearby state park is walked to by many on a daily basis, including residents walking dogs.
Among residents’ suggestions was the addition of a sidewalk. For that, Rooney said that Southborough “is not a sidewalk safe community”. He urged the residents contact the Sidewalk Committee recently formed to identify priorities. He told them that if they wanted to be considered, they needed to take that route.
Chair John Rooney told residents that there are a lot of roads in town with similar issues and they have to balance them all. Rooney advised following the recommendations from “the report by an expert” then following up to see where things stand.
Cimino disagreed, pointing out that the report focused on the intersection, not the whole of Pine Hill Road. He asked to have the police, fire and DPW chiefs meet to discuss the road’s safety issues. Rooney conceded the point.
He told the audience that the board and Town was committed to following up and obligated to listen to public safety facility and DPW concerns for all town roads.