By Heather McCarron; October 19, 2017; Wicked Local Plainville
PLAINVILLE — A strip of Qwick Kurbs and two traffic-channeling islands will soon make an appearance on Rte. 1 and George Street as a temporary plan for improving safety at the dangerous intersection is implemented.
Selectmen on Monday joined other public officials – including the police and fire chiefs, the town DPW director and the director of planning and development – in endorsing the plan designed by engineers at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT).
“What MassDOT is proposing, it’s called a Qwick Kurb,” Thompson said. “Qwick Kurb is more of a temporary barrier. This would be a temporary barrier that they could put up fairly quickly. You’ve probably seen these before if you go up to the Cape.”
The Qwick Kurb strip with upright flexisticks placed at intervals will be placed down the center of Rte. 1 in the area of George Street. The barrier “will, at a minimum, prevent people from crossing over Rte. 1” from one side of George Street to the other, Thompson said.
“The other thing they’re proposing is small, raised islands on each side of George Street that would prohibit left turns on either side of George Street, so people could only do right turn in and right turn out on each side of George Street,” she explained. “Certainly there would be a lot of signage warning people of the changes on both Rte. 1 and on George Street.”
The plan comes on the heels of a fatal accident on Sept. 17 that claimed the life of 35-year-old Aaron Hahn of Sharon, who 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 that was attempting to cross over Rte. 1.
The accident immediately prompted a citizens’ petition by Dawn Denizkurt and Missy Imbaro, and renewed efforts by town officials to get their concerns about the intersection heard and addressed by the state – a serendipitous, late September visit to town by Lt. Gov. Karen Polito during which officials pointed out their concerns fast-tracked the issue, selectmen said.
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.
Town officials said they have been urging a safety solution for the state-managed section of Rte. 1 for years with no concrete results, and selectmen had sent a letter to MassDOT as recently as last winter.
Immediate implementation expected
Thompson said town officials “had a sit down” with MassDOT following a recent selectmen’s meeting held to discuss concerns about the problematic intersection in the wake of the Sept. 17 fatality. They were pleasantly surprised to find the department already had a short-term solution drawn out, she said.
“The best part of the conversation was they think they could do this in four to six weeks, which if you’re ever dealt with the state is amazing to me,” Thompson said.
She noted that the work is a little weather dependent.
“Of course, if we get snow early that could impact the schedule a little bit,” she said. “But the fact that they had a plan prepared, a short term solution of something that they could implement in a shorter time that I had thought, is encouraging.”
She said officials did touch upon some long-term solutions, but went to the technical meeting looking first for “something quick to address the safety at the intersection” and that would not require more studies and “years of waiting for it to happen.”
Endorsed by public safety, other officials
Police Chief James Alfred said the more serious accidents at the intersection have tended to be the result of left turning movements.
“This (plan) will eliminate those left turning movements. It will also eliminate anyone coming across the intersection,” he said.
He agrees the plan improves safety at the intersection, though people must still be cautious about left turning movements into and out of the nearby Dunkin Donuts. Public safety officials have also petitioned the state to decrease the speed limit past George Street from 55 to 45 mph.
The plan, Alfred said, is certainly “a quick fix for now and it should be effective. The islands will channel people so that they can only take a right turn – a right turn off of George Street and a right turn onto Rte. 1.”
“We may not prevent all of the accidents there, but we may prevent those types of very serious accidents,” he said.
Fire Chief Justin Alexander said the plan will not interfere with emergency access for his department. In September there was some talk of blocking off George Street. Alexander said “having it not blocked helps us to have options.”
DPW Director Paul Scott said he is satisfied with the temporary plan as well.
“We’ve eliminated most of the conflicts, especially the dangerous conflicts,” he said. “These safety improvements are a huge step in the right direction.”
Selectmen also say it is a good plan, and noted they will continue to work with MassDOT on a permanent solution. The expectation is that there will be a permanent plan by 2021. MassDOT has already started some survey work toward that end, officials said.
“We’re not going to solve all of the problems here, but we should be able to eliminate all of the really bad ones,” said Selectman George Sutherland, adding, “I could not be happier with this as a temporary and quick solution to mitigate the issue.”
Board Chairman Rob Rose called the quick-action of MassDOT and the temporary fix “an early Christmas present,” but stressed the town needs to keep a foot to the pedal to ensure a permanent solution is designed and implemented.
Selectman Matt Kavanah is satisfied as well, for now.
“This proposal has the endorsement across the board from our town administrator, our chief of police, our fire department, our director of public works and our director of planning and development, and all of that is good enough for me,” he said.
Denizkurt said she is happy with the short term solution, though she continues to be cautious, noting the town has yet to see the impact of the 248-unit apartment complex being built nearby.
State Rep. Shawn Dooley, who has been in frequent contact with Polito about the matter, said the fast-tracked, short term solution has been “a team effort.”
He said he spoke to MassDOT on Monday, and “they said they have the funding in place. They said it’s not, in their world, a big cost. It doesn’t look like there’s any hiccoughs.”
But, he said, “This is just phase one. We need to make sure we don’t let the foot off the gas and make sure everything’s in place and we continue to be that squeaky wheel.”