By Heather McCarron; September 28, 2017; Plainville.WickedLocal.com
Less than two weeks after a Sharon man died following an accident at the highly dangerous George Street and Rte. 1 intersection, town officials have already gained Lt. Gov. Karen Polito’s ear on their long-time concerns about the location, and two residents have issued a sought-after citizens’ petition requesting the state to get something done about it once and for all.
Selectmen said residents and town officials alike have been concerned about the intersection’s safety for years, and there is frustration that nothing has been done to correct the problem despite repeated communications to the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT). Ideas range from adding a traffic light with “Signal Ahead” alerts to putting in jersey barriers or traffic islands, decreasing the posted speed limit and even closing off the end of George Streeet.
The board on Monday put the issue front and center at their meeting, attended by a number of residents, public safety officials, state Sen. Richard Ross, R-Wrentham, and state Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk.
Town Administrator Jennifer Thompson said Mass DOT officials were invited to the meeting, but elected not to attend, ostensibly because the investigation into the latest accident is ongoing. She and other officials mwr with MassDOT officials behind closed doors on Tuesday.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Robert Rose said the town has communicated their concerns to MassDOT on more than one occasion.
“The Board of Selectmen were basically on top of this about a year or so ago. We had a close call with a resident and we decided to address the issue with MassHighway back at that time,” said Rose, citing a Jan. 27, 2017 letter to the department highlighting – not for the first time – the town’s concerns and request for corrective action.
Nothing was done beyond “identifying” missing and damaged signs and, in July, trimming back some vegetation, Rose said.
“On. Sept. 17, we had a fatality,” Rose said.
Around 7:30 p.m. on Sept 17, police said, Aaron Hahn, 35, of Sharon, was traveling northbound on his 2014 Suzuki motorcycle on Rte. 1 toward Wrentham when he collided with a vehicle at the George Street intersection in Plainville. The driver of the vehicle, a 2001 Volkswagon GTX, was attempting to cross over Rte. 1 when the collision occurred. The driver and his passenger suffered no injuries.
According to records kept by the police department, that intersection has seen a sharp increase in the number of accidents in recent years, and authorities say it is only going to get worse with plans for a 248-unit apartment complex in the area.
In August 2015, Baystate Engineering conducted a safety audit of the intersection, which indicated that from 2010 to 2015 there were 23 accidents at the intersection. There have been an additional 10 accidents since the report came out, Rose said.
In light of those statistics, and the recent fatality, “The Plainville Board of Selectmen feel it is imperative MassDOT take action,” Rose said.
By happenstance, Polito was visiting the area just days after Hahn’s death, and at that time town officials took the opportunity to discuss the concerns with her, and express their frustration with the lack of action on the state-maintained roadway.
“Her commitment to us was that the state would make it one of the highest priorities and they would address it,” Town Administrator Jennifer Thompson said.
CITIZENS’ PETITION CIRCULATING
Residents Dawn Denizkurt and Missy Imbaro have also gotten attention with their petition that is currently circulating. They began researching possible solutions and formulating the petition a couple of months ago. They are suggesting a traffic light with “Signal Ahead” warning signs ahead of the intersection, as well as lowering the speed limit, a jersey barrier between Rte. 106 and George Street, and a safe crossing zone for the residents of the upcoming apartment complex.
“We have a new apartment complex opening soon with 248 units. The potential for more accidents will increase, the fear of people coming out of the complex into traffic traveling at 55 MPH and trying to merge into the left lane in order to enter Dunkin Donuts is frightening. The worry that residents may try to cross the highway for the same reason is again a horrible thought,” Denizkurt said.
“We do not want another death,” she continued, adding that the Sept. 17 tragedy may have been prevented had there been a traffic light.
There are two petitions circulating – one for residents of Plainville and one for non-residents.
“This roadway is traveled by so many people and if they’re not from the area they don’t realize how dangerous it really is,” Denizkurt said. “Many people from Plainville are afraid to drive through it, which is unfortunate, because it eliminates one of the only two roads that crosses Rte. 1 in the middle of Plainville. The only other options are to go to North Attleborough or up near Target.”
On a personal level, she said, “I’ve told my teenage son that he is never to cross George Street or take a left in or out of it. It’s too dangerous.”
Selectmen are drawing a line in the sand they hope will result some action on the intersection on the part of the state.
“The fact of the matter is the last death is the last death. It’s got to stop,” said Selectman George Sutherland, noting the town now needs “to maintain the pressure and get it out in the open.”
Selectman Matt Kavanah said he is ready to see more than just analysis and discussion. What the town doesn’t need any more of, he said, are more studies and “putting it down on paper again and again and again and again. We’ve got it.”
Rep. Dooley said he and Sen. Ross share the town’s frustration and both have made numerous calls.
“We definitely have the ear of the lieutenant governor now,” said Dooley, noting he has also received calls from Polito over the past week to follow up.
George Street resident Chris Wlaz said he is very happy to hear the board discussing both short- and long-term solutions. Anticipating that long-term solutions could take months or years, he said, “The recent tragedy shows us something needs to be done, and be done soon.”
Fellow George Street resident Meta Unterweger agrees. “I don’t want another death on this corner. It’s so sad,” she said.
“I personally think they ought to close the road for now. It’s 10 houses from George Street to School street… I’ll go up School Street,” she said.
Closing off the end of George Street – which could be done since the town maintains that road – is one solution selectmen will have the town highway department look at to determine if it could be feasible or it if would create other problems or pose difficulties for emergency access.
Thompson said she and Rose were joined by the police and fire chiefs, the DPW director and the town planning director at Tuesday’s meeting with MassDOT District 5 administrators “to further reiterate the concerns here in Plainville over this intersection.”
Possible short-, medium- and long-term solutions were discussed, she said, “and our staff will be having a follow-up technical meeting with MassDOT engineers on Monday to work on the details of implementing short-term solutions to improve safety at this location.”
Rose said he plans to keep the issue on the board’s agenda on a weekly basis, and selectmen plan to demand a timeline for solutions from MassDOT.
Read the original article here