Pine Hill and Parmenter roads safety discussion continues with requests and 3-Way stop debate

Above: There was disagreement on Tuesday night as to what is necessary to make it safer for Pine Hill Road drivers to turn onto Parmenter Road. (image from presentation by neighborhood residents)

Representing a group of Pine Hill Road residents, Lisa Tommaney was back in front of the Board of Selectmen this week. Tommaney acknowledged disagreements among residents about what should be done to roads in her neighborhood. But she asserted that everyone (including town officials) agrees that the intersection at Parmenter Road is unsafe. 

The intersection (from presentation)Tommaney noted that while agendas this fall specified requests for a Heavy Truck Exclusion and a 3-Way Stop sign, the discussion was really a follow up on two petitions from 2015. Residents were asking to address safety measures for controlling speed on Pine Hill Road and Parmenter Road and to improve safety at the roads’ intersection. (Click here to read her presentation.) Multiple requests/safety measures were discussed on Tuesday, but the bulk of the discussion focused on the request to install a 3-way stop.

According to Tommany, many on Pine Hill Road favor stop signs in all 3 directions to improve intersection safety. According to selectmen, many Parmenter Road residents have noted objections to that plan.

That split appeared to be borne out by residents’ comments that night. Pine Hill Road residents complained about sight lines at the intersection. Parmenter Road residents opined that adding stop signs to their road could cause other problems. Although not specified, presumably potential traffic backups was a big concern. One resident worried about the ability of cars to get out of Parmenter driveways.

As promised earlier this fall, the Town conducted a traffic study at the intersection. The report was included in the agenda packet for the meeting. It stated that based on the state’s Manual
on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), the intersection didn’t meet any of the 4 criteria for a 3-way stop sign. The Town’s consultants (VHB) concluded that the two additional stop signs weren’t needed.

In her presentation, Tommaney rebutted that the MUTCD wasn’t that cut and dry. It lists the 4 criteria as ones that should be considered, not that “shall be” met. It also allows the option of considering other criteria. That includes:

View from stop line on Pine Hill Road (cropped from presentation)A. The need to control left-turn conflicts; . . .

C. Locations where a road user, after stopping, cannot see conflicting traffic and is not able to negotiate the intersection unless conflicting cross traffic is also required to stop; and
D. An intersection of two residential neighborhood collector (through) streets of similar design and operating characteristics where multi-way stop control would improve traffic operational characteristics of the intersection

That information was from a meeting that residents had with the author of the Town’s 2015 study. According to Tommaney, the engineer Robert Michaud sat down with them as a friend of a Pine Hill Road resident. He purportedly stated that the report was never meant to rule out a 3-way stop, just to explain the other safety measures that should first be adopted.

Whether fixes implemented in 2015 made a difference in safety or not was another area of debate. Some residents like Caroline Rossen opined that safety hadn’t improved. Others disagreed. Kevin Daley, the new owner of the Parmenter Road property on the west corner of the intersection, noted that while there were 4 accidents there in 2015, there had only been 3 in the four years since.

The majority of the board wasn’t in favor of installing 3-way stop signs at this point. 

Selectmen Mary Healey and Lisa Braccio both opined that the stop signs would cause more problems than they would solve. Upon questioning, Healey stated that he personally didn’t have an issue with visibility at the stop sign when he scoped out the area. He admitted that he had to ease out beyond the stop line, but posited that is something drivers frequently need to do at stop signs.

Chair Brian Shea argued that before taking big steps, the Town should wait to see results from the investment it already made. He pointed out that $50K was spent on driver feedback signs that have yet to be installed. Selectman Sam Stivers urged for Public Works to install radar equipment before installing signs (or other additional speed control measures) to record data on the impact.

The only one to lean towards installing the signs was Selectman Dan Kolenda. He said he was willing to hold off for results from feedback signs, but not for long. He pushed for the agenda item to be readdressed in 3-6 months. 

As for the feedback signs, Tommaney passed on that Michaud said the placement is important. As the neighbor who hosted the meeting with Michaud, Jim Betses followed that his friend offered to help with placement for free.

Tommaney’s presentation included other requests and potential measures. One was to remove “vegetation” at the corner to improve sight lines. According to Parmenter Rd resident Karen Muggeridge, the Town sought to improve the sight line by taking down the big tree and moving the stone wall at the west corner. She said that was stymied by opposition of the property owner. Following a comment by Daley, indicating he was more amenable to working with the town, Muggeridge suggested that Galligan would want to revisit that.

A speed table was also raised by Tommany as a potential alternative to the 3 way stop. A table is a flat topped raised section of the road, much wider than a hump. Tommaney suggested that one that covers the entire area of the intersection should slow speeds to 25 miles per hour there. Residents would also like a crosswalk to make it safer for pedestrians to access Callahan State Park across the way.

The resident concluded that she isn’t a safety expert, but she was bringing them the information she had gathered from those that are.

The board plans to have an update on the roads on the agenda again soon, since Public Works Superintendent Karen Galligan was unavailable for this week’s meeting. They will be asking for her to respond to the presentation and requests.

Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, Galligan did provide an update that was included in the meeting packet. That memo shared:

the DPW will be replacing all of the signs along Pine Hill and Parmenter Roads, as well as adding prismatic reflectors on utility poles, and possibly on trees, along the S-curve between 64 and 85 Pine Hill Road.

Since the previous meeting with the Selectmen, the DPW has ordered the driver feedback signs and contracted an installer, these will be installed as soon as possible after the signs are received. The DPW has also contacted the roadway striping contractor to paint a double yellow centerline the full length of Pine Hill Road and the full length of Parmenter Road. We do not have a date for this work yet. We have inventoried and ordered the new street signs and prismatic reflectors; these will be installed after receipt of the materials. Brush cutting along the roadside has been completed.

Although brush cutting was done along the entire roadway, extra attention was given to areas where pedestrians can stand while traffic is passing. Unfortunately, the presence of stone walls has made locating other areas to level off in order to create a new area of refuge, an exercise in futility. Therefore, the DPW will work to improve the ones that currently exist.

To read the full memo and the VHB traffic report, click here.


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4 years ago

like I posted before, Issue heavy fines to the speeders, verbal and written warnings no longer work this day and age, these people are repeat offenders, the town of westboro does all the time, you’d be surprised how quick the word gets out , not to speed on southboro roads

4 years ago
Reply to  Arborist

Agree completely!

Where I grew up, a neighboring town was well known for issuing tickets on certain roads. Those roads were where one did not dare to speed. And, occasionally one would encounter a patrol car either cruising or stationary with radar.

Fast-forward to the present and the town of Southborough – where commuters, trucks, school buses and just about everyone else speeds with impunity. The police department says that it’s everywhere in town. Well, let’s pick one or more locations and start taking care of business! Then move on to the next set of streets.

Doing nothing because the issue is so widespread is not a solution!!!

Where is the enforcement part of law enforcement?

4 years ago

As residents of this area for 22 years, we certainly can attest to the dangerous nature of the “T” intersection of Pine Hill Road and Parmenter Road. The main hazard is the traffic zooming up Parmenter, from west to east, over a blind hill, into the intersection. I can’t tell you how many times there has been a close call!

I can understand why an immediate neighbor would NOT want a three-way stop as I suspect there would be more stop and go noise.

However, perhaps more signs on Parmenter that indicate there is a dangerous intersection ahead would be helpful. Those who are familiar with the intersection seem to understand the importance of slowing down; others unfamiliar do not.

As written in a previous posting, we still stop at the end of Pine Hill and put our windows down on the driver’s side to listen for oncoming cars.

4 years ago

Heavy trucks passing through the Pine Hill Rd./Parmenter Rd./Edmands Rd. intersection? Why are heavy trucks using this street in the first place? Just east of the intersection under discussion is a series of blind, narrow curves with barely enough space to accommodate cars, let alone heavy trucks!

At a minimum, those trucks should be prohibited.

The intersection clearly has line of sight issues. Doesn’t the town have right of way and/or own number of feet from the edge of the pavement? Why does the fallen stone wall persist in this location – blocking a driver’s view to the left?

BEWARE of so-called traffic studies conducted by the town! Southborough has an ongoing relationship with the group that conducts the studies. Let’s say, form experience, it looks as though the outcome of such studies is known by the parties involved before any traffic counters are even put in place!

Good luck trying to get a heavy truck exclusion!

Even if such an exclusion could be obtained (unlikely), enforcement is another matter. Witness the countless posts about speeding traffic all across Southborough. Yep – the SPD hands out lots of tickets on route 9, where few residents live. What about the residential ‘connector’ streets? Driving about town in a black & white SUV isn’t an effective way to control excessive speed on Southborough residential streets!

4 years ago

A three way stop at Pine Hill and Parmenter is a very bad idea. The intersection is too tight and cars would be backed up 10 deep at each stop sign during rush hours. A landscape truck with a trailer could never make the turn until all is clear. Everyone will be waving the other car through – go, no you go, no I insist you go…. all day long.

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