Flagg and Deerfoot Road study highlights dangers to pedestrians, pushes for sidewalks

Above: Engineers used this visual aid on “Cone of Vision” to explain to Southborough officials the danger posed by speeding drivers (image cropped from TooleDesignGroup study citing NACTO as the source)

The Town has posted results of a study on Deerfoot and Flagg Road safety issues. Engineers confirmed safety issues for pedestrians, especially school aged children, along the streets.

Describing roads that feel unsafe, they called for improvements. Consultants incorporated past data showing 85% of drivers exceed 38 mph on the 30 mph road.

Recommendations included sidewalks, reconfiguration of intersections and “traffic calming measures”. The only measures advised for the roads were speed humps on Flagg Road and speed feedback signs. They also suggested painting center yellow lines down both roads.

The study was solicited by the Town in response to residents concerns about the impacts of future traffic from pending developments at Park Central. The Zoning Board of Appeals hired consultants to study the safety issues and make recommendations.

(As part of the approval process for the proposed 40B project, developer Capital Group is footing the bill. But the consultants were hired by and work for the Town of Southborough.)

The study was completed and submitted to the Zoning Board of Appeals on May 9th. Last week, the document was posted to the Town’s Highway Department website.

Consultants summarized: 

roadway improvements are justified along the corridors to address excessive vehicle speeds and pedestrian safety issues. The traffic data documented herein indicates vehicles are traveling at excessive rates of speed beyond the legally enforceable posted speed limits. Additionally, the use the study area roadways as a commuting corridor is apparent. Recommended improvements include the addition of sidewalks, intersection reconfigurations and the implementation of strategic traffic calming measures.

Of primary concern is the safety of vulnerable, non-motorized roadway users. There is a direct correlation with vehicle speed and pedestrian safety; as speeds increase, fatalities and serious injuries increase.

Given the lack of sidewalks, and in some segments a roadside clear zone, any pedestrian activity typically takes place directly within the travel way. As the vehicle speeds recorded along the corridor average approximately 30 mph, with operational speeds (85th percentile) upwards of 38 mph, vehicle traffic is often a constant threat to vulnerable roadway users. As a result pedestrian activity along these roadways feels unsafe, requires constant vigilance and generally disincentives walking. This is particularly concerning given the presence of school age children.

Enforcement efforts alone are not a sustainable solution to address roadway safety related to vehicle speed; physical geometric changes are necessary to self-enforce slow speeds and desired behaviors for when police are not present.

For the full report, click here.

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Tim Martel
7 years ago

I can’t stress enough that the dangers stated in this report are real. School age children regularly use this road. This past weekend, the weather was lovely and the volume of pedestrians and cyclists was heavy.

As our town’s population is not getting any smaller, the solution will very likely involve the cutting of trees and the relocation of stone walls. I don’t like it. The road in its current state is beautiful. But I’ve come to accept it because the consequences of not taking action are real and dire. There are other things that can be done as well, but IMHO a sidewalk has become a necessity.

7 years ago
Reply to  Tim Martel

I couldn’t agree more. I’m glad that the trees got cut down after the intersection of clifford/flagg/deerfoot.

7 years ago

“85 percent of cars are speeding”. There are “speed limit strictly enforced” signs posted on both streets. Clearly everyone knows that isn’t the truth. How about a speed trap once in awhile?? And those speed humps are a joke. People don’t even hit the brake.

Area resident
7 years ago

Another viewpoint. I regularly run on these roads and never feel unsafe, the traffic volume is generally what I’d call very low such that it is not a problem at all. I certainly would label this road as dangerous, but it is a narrow/winding road, I just don’t think of pedestrian access to all roads as a right. The road is what it is, it was there before me and I make the decision to be there and have determined that it isn’t dangerous enough to avoid. It does require constant vigilance as the study suggests, but I understand that I am running on a road. I’m constantly vigilant running down lover’s lane too. What traffic volume crosses the line into needing to cut trees and put sidewalks in? Regarding school age children on Flagg Rd, if the road is so dangerous, I don’t think parents would allow their children on it, and I often see parents pushing strollers too.

I’m certainly not against sidewalks, especially on actual busy streets (main st?!?), but when I first moved to Sboro, my first drive off of Rt 9 was onto Flagg. The type of road that Flagg is, is one of the things that made me fall in love with Sboro. In the many years that I have now lived here, I don’t think the traffic volume has all of a sudden changed so much that it warrants drastic changes. Might park central change that? maybe, but lets wait and see first. And just like our fears with Main St. if you change it, you are only inviting more traffic and even higher speeds.

And please please don’t put in speed bumps. The ones between the schools are car killers and the ones on Parkerville do nothing. I appreciate that the study authors feel compelled to suggest something, but speed bumps are never the answer you are looking for.

7 years ago
Reply to  Area resident

Area Resident,

The study was done because of the impending large development coming in behind Red Roof Inn. Flagg Rd will be a feeder road for the development. Deerfoot and Flagg traffic will significantly increase. It will become more of a through street than it is now. That country feel will be gone. But we still need to keep children safe. Not to mention runners bikers and dog walkers. I am a proponent of sidewalks! And I thought 20 years ago when I moved here without children that it was crazy that Southborough didn’t provide safe roads for pedestrians.

Deb Moore
7 years ago
Reply to  Area resident

Actually, I do think I have a right to be a pedestrian on the road I live on, and my children should be able to ride their bikes places.

And to the article above, I thought our speed limit was 25MPH, not 30.

I just want the drivers to all observe the speed limit. If they can’t do that, I guess we can’t have nice things.

Kelly Roney
7 years ago

All of Flagg Rd. requires very alert pedestrians. Not sure where sidewalks would go without either cutting down a lot of trees or significant land-taking.

I think speed humps work. They slow me down on Parkerville.

7 years ago
Reply to  Kelly Roney

You should see some of the cars traveling down Parkerville. You could confuse them with the General Lee! Humps only work with area residence because they under stand their purpose. It’s the out of towners that don’t care, and there are way more of them than residence.

7 years ago

Sidewalks and a police presence to enforce speed limits in school zones are the least this town can do for the taxes we pay in Southborough.

Kathryn Rose
7 years ago

I agree that sidewalks would be nice. However, I don’t want them added just so the Park Central Development can add another 3000 car trips to Flagg and Deerfoot. Regardless if the sidewalks are installed, the road will still not be wide enough to accommodate the additional cars this development will generate. The developer should put that traffic where it belongs — onto Rte. 9.

If we are to install sidewalks, who is going to pay for it? How is it going to work since there are at least a few homes on the road that have very little frontage to give to that project? Speed humps are an option, and perhaps will deter some from using Flagg as a “cut through” but other commenters said they haven’t seen a good result from their use on Parkerville. Speed enforcement is an option too but we can’t have police there 24-7.

Ironically, the research I have done seems to show that widening a road or providing separate paths for pedestrians actually increases speed and recklessness. Here is a link to one such post https://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/2003/03/17/bigger-roads-are-less-safe-despite-what-your-traffic-engineer-says/.

I would not be opposed to speed humps as long as it is done to slow cars down from the current traffic and the Park Central traffic goes to Rte. 9. While I like the idea of sidewalks I don’t think they are a viable option.

7 years ago

Park Central traffic should not be allowed access to Flagg Road. Flagg should be diverted over property near Wendy’s and Park Central should be allowed access to Route 9 over the old Flagg right of way. Those new road arrangements should not join. Traffic problem solved! Why was this not discussed with the state during recent reconstruction of route 9 . … Ms. Galligan. The taking of land to construct sidewalks and bike paths will be extremely difficult, expensive, and take decades while putting a generation of school children in danger viz the Main Street project. It will also change the neighborhood beyond recognition making it less livable and reducing property values.

7 years ago

I agree with Bill 100%. We cannot have a new housing development, anywhere in Southborough, if it is going to endanger our families. Park Central exits should go to Rt 9.

Downtown Resident
7 years ago

Driving over the speed limit is a problem thoughout the entire town. Middle Rd. has extra signs reminding people of the speed limit there, yet people zip down that street as though they are on rt9. Someone has posted signs on Oak Hill reading, “drive like your children live here.” If you don’t live near downtown, you might not realize how fast people drive through the center of town, where the speed limit is 20mph. And it’s not all out of towners passing through who disregard that speed limit. Thank you to the commenter above who posted the link about widening roads. Please, everyone, read it and keep it in mind when the Main St. Project once again comes up for vote.

7 years ago

I am confused…… I thought that the study was to consider the impact of a massive increase of vehicular traffic on Flagg / Deerfoot Roads. What I am reading here is that the study found that the roads were not currently safe for pedestrian traffic due to vehicular traffic exceeding the speed limit. Why not increase the cost of speeding. Has an automated speed monitoring system been considered? Frequent payment of these tickets generally slows the traffic. If you widened the roads and added sidewalks, I think that drivers would be LESS alert and speed up. If the study says that it is unsafe now, does that mean absolutely that it will not work to funnel Park Central traffic thru Flagg / Deerfoot Rds?

7 years ago

I would suggest the study makes it clear that we should do everything we can to prevent increased traffic on these roads. Certainly other safety issues can be addressed but we need to make sure new developments are not dropping hundreds of additional cars onto these roads on a daily basis. We need residents to be vocal about this.

7 years ago

The BOS is meeting on this Tuesday to discuss this issue and the results of the traffic study. This is a MAJOR issue for this neighborhood as well as our town. As can be seen in the discussion above, adding sidewalks and speed humps is not an easy solution and data is not clear if it will even be effective. To add sidewalks, whether you are for it or not, will definitely change the character of the road, Many of the old growth trees will need to come down. The stone walls may need to be moved or taken down. The land for the sidewalks is going to need to come from somewhere and that is the front yard of the residents on this road. who is going to pay for it or will it be taken by imminent domain? Are we as taxpayers going to pay for all of this road improvements so Mr. Depietri can go ahead with his park central development and earn millions of dollars in profit or is he going to have to pay for it?
I encourage everyone to get involved and attend the BOS meeting this coming Tuesday and see what is in store for the future of our town.

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