BOS to work with state on safety issues at Flagg and Rte 9; Deerfoot sidewalk and Flagg speed humps to be considered by Town

Above: A redesigned intersection and crosswalk at Flagg and Deerfoot roads was one recommendation for improving pedestrian safety (image cropped from SAM video)

Earlier this week, the Board of Selectmen heard a presentation on safety issues and solutions for Deerfoot and Flagg Roads. Officials will consider recommendations and talk to the state about safety issues and possible solutions at Flagg, Route 9 and 495.

Consulting engineer Jason Degray supported residents’ concerns about pedestrian safety on the roadway. And he understood that future plans at Park Central have exacerbated worries. But he didn’t believe the increased traffic volume was an issue. Instead, he framed it as an existing and ongoing issue.

As part of his study, DeGray looked at collected data, traffic studies and projections, and resident feedback. He told the board that the roadways to pose a hazard to pedestrians given the speeds.

Answering why it wasn’t like the many other windy tree-lined roads in town, DeGray described it as cut-through high speed road. He said “it gives me some pause that this is not a typical roadway condition in Southborough.”

DeGray called adding a sidewalk on the west side of Deerfoot Road from Main Street to Flagg Road, with an improved crosswalk at Trottier, a no brainer with minimal impact to abutters.

He also recommended a forced stop from Flagg to Deerfoot, making Deerfoot the clear throughpath and beefing up pedestrian accomodations at the intersection. As for pedestrians on Flagg, he dismissed sidewalks as:

doing some pretty significant damage to the abutting context of the land use. The old growth trees, stone walls, these would all be heavily impacted under any scenario that we try to attempt to get a sidewalk in place.

Earlier this year, a resident committee (working with Public Works Superintendent Karen Galligan) determined sidewalk priorities for the Town. That section of Deerfoot was only number 17 on the list.  Flagg Road was tied with two others in 9th place.

DeGray said slowing traffic on Flagg would make more sense. To do that he recommended installing a 5 speed hump array coming from Route 9. He explained that to be effective humps would be 500 feet or less apart so that drivers don’t just speed back up. 

The engineer said drivers take time coming off of a highway to adapt to new context. He wanted the frequent speed humps to “hit them early and really drive the point home.” But he warned that the Town better be sure they want it. And he acknowledged that maintenance and first responders may not like it. Fire Chief Joseph Mauro told the board that he would have to look at it. He noted that his department is concerned about safety of the roads. But he also needs to consider that humps increase response time for ambulances, etc.

The safety study was commissioned for the Town at the request of the Zoning Board of Appeals. The ZBA Chair Leo Bartolini told selectmen that he asked the presentation be made to them since it has “no connection” to the 40B project at Park Central.

Park Central developer William Depietri agreed to pay for the study and to do any safety work on the road requested by selectmen. The agreement was made during 40B hearings, but Bartolini claimed Depietri was doing it “as a developer of the town”.

Selectman Paul Cimino disagreed with the characterization. He later remarked, “there is no sugar coating or hiding the fact that this is all interrelated.”

Planning Board Chair Don Morris called on selectmen to work with the state to look at issues related to Park Central access to Route 9. Representative Carolyn Dykema committed to help them work with the state on issues around the safety at Flagg Road, Route 9 and 495.

Cimino said that he and Dykema would be at the table when Public Works Superintendent Karen Galligan talks to the state. He followed that “everything should be on the table”, including possibility of Park Central construction being delayed until a solution is resolved.

DeGray told selectmen they should pay attention to MEPA process. (The Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act requires looking at safety for the That is going to be their key moment for Town’s interest to be represented at the state level. The state will have to respond to the Town’s comments.

Kolenda asked Police Chief Ken Paulhus to immediately look into what he can do to curb speeding. Chief Paulhus blamed manpower with a lot of roads with similar issues and required response to calls, including the busy turnpike. He said he would “try to put some people over there”. He also promised to use a sign to collect more data over the next 1-2 months.

Residents were concerned about increased volume from Park Central making the roadway unsafe. Between safety concerns and the desire to protect road character, some hoped officials could put a halt on the project. (You can read more about their comments in Southborough Wicked Local.)

DeGray told residents that the increased volume projected isn’t sufficient to deny a 40B project on safety grounds.

Some were skeptical of the projections in quantity and patterns. DeGray responded the traffic studies have been through the wringer. He said that that any engineer is going to side with the methodology showing most drivers will turn out of Park Central towards Route 9. And they aren’t going to get different results than the projected 2 more cars per minute during peak hours.

Selectmen treated the Tuesday night presentation as something to be considered. There was no vote to implement any of the suggested measures.

Updated (6/29/16 11:00 am): I included the link to the study in a previous post, but not this one. If you are looking for the full report, click here.

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8 years ago

I greatly appreciate the fact that the selectman were willing to listen to the neighbors and hear the concerns. What I am worried about is the lack of a plan or outlining of the next steps from the selectman. As it was mentioned, this project is only one or two steps away from being approved by the ZBA. I don’t feel there is enough time for the police to address the current safety issues in the next 1 – 2 months, let alone try to figure out what to do when the traffic more than doubles on these streets. This is the biggest development in the history of the town and we are increasing the population by about 10%. Are we really ready and have planned accordingly for this massive project as a town?

Southboro Dad
8 years ago

Speed humps would be a great idea in many areas of town. Its mind boggling the speeds that can be witnessed on numerous roads. Try standing next to the sad neglected park on Central street and observe vehicles going 60 miles per hour. Someone is going to get killed here sooner or later. Oak Hill Road, Woodland Road may be the 2nd and 3rd worst situations. Flagg road will become as dangerous if something is not done.

Sidewalks are also a great idea. Love the fact that we had to have a committee for this. We sure do like committees in Southborough. But does the town realize that installing more sidewalk means (should mean) a commitment to maintaining them. We have miles and miles of sidewalks that are failing due to poor construction, lack of maintenance, or stumbling around while planning a road project.

Perhaps we should start a “pay attention to the big picture” committee.

8 years ago

If there’s really an appetite for speed humps on busy cut thru roads that have no sidewalks, the conversation needs expanding.
Latisquama? Woodland? Parkerville ( South )? Middle?

Let’s do ’em all!!!

8 years ago

The ones we have are in a variety of conditions, the worst one I’ve seen is on Bridge Street. Aside from the condition, even the best ones don’t always get used by pedestrians.
If there is a good sidewalk available why does a jogger run in the street? Isn’t that problem going to persist on Deerfoot and the surrounding roads? Is it time for a law that requires runners to stay on sidewalks or is there some requirement that they stay off?
Not much to say other than it just doesn’t happen in a timely manner on the sidewalks we already have. Along Southville the walkway was often left covered for weeks. Seeing people walk in the street while it’s snowing is a real problem that we do not handle successfully now so what’s going to change in the future?
Emergency Egress…
Forgive my ignorance but isn’t there supposed to be an emergency secondary egress for vehicles or for emergency vehicles? If so then where is that access and why can’t it be switched with the Deerfoot access. Use Deerfoot only for emergency and route the other traffic in the other directions. (I’ll research the site soon I promise).

8 years ago
Reply to  Matthew

Ideally the traffic should be routed to and from Rt 9. Apparently this is an issue, since the intersection of Rt 9 and 495 is already considered to be a dangerous intersection and the state does not want to add any more traffic coming out of Cumberland so close to the 495 northbound intersection.
The latest version has the emergency access to come into Blackthorn which would also put the traffic onto Flagg.

8 years ago

I see a repeat of the Main street project. The road will have to be widen to accommodate sidewalks, trees that dot the landscape making Southborough what it is will have to come down to make way for these new sidewalks, and historic New England stone walls will have to be demolished. It’ll never happen. The ones who are barking for these changes will soon find out how much land, trees, and rural character that will be lost and vote it down.

In saying that, I think the only access and exit should be off of rt 9. Make the state change rt 9 in order it accommodate these influx of traffic.

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