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Officials Answer to Residents Over Road Work Flap

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

 

More than 20 residents and numerous officials weighed in on the city's plans to resurface and widen the intersection of Forest and Salisbury Streets.

Work on the intersection was scheduled to start this week, but when the Department of Public Works failed to flyer adjacent properties before work crews put survey stakes in the ground, many residents cried foul, arguing that their concerns and input should have been taken into account before the project was given the go-ahead.

A History of Issues

At a joint meeting of the City Council's Traffic & Parking and Public Works committees, DPW Commissioner Robert Moylan explained that the traffic and safety issues at the busy intersection have been on officials' radar since the 1970s.

Moylan said the intersection of Forest and Salisbury, which handles over 42,000 vehicles in an average day, is too narrow, and left-turning vehicles that block the flow of traffic result in queues of 10 minutes or more during peak hours.

The solution for traffic congestion currently on the table would have widened the roads, without deviating from the city's right-of-way, in order to allow for a left-turn lane from Salisbury onto Forest and a right-turn lane from Forest onto Salisbury, while also improving sight lines and improving sidewalks, curbs and crosswalks to be ADA compliant.

"This project, unfortunately, came out of the starting gates on the wrong track," Moylan said, accepting responsibility for the city's failure to flyer the typical one to two weeks prior to the start of road work.

Moylan admitted that it will still be a difficult intersection, but DPW estimates indicated that the improvements would cut wait times during afternoon rush hours in half and improve safety for both motorists and pedestrians.

"I'm a little bit surprised at some of the concerns," he said.

Residents Give Their Take

Those concerns ranged from increases in traffic and decreases to neighboring residents' quality of life to questions of whether or not the current plan goes far enough to increase safety and alleviate traffic woes.

But chief among the issues raised was whether officials factored the adjacent property owners into their plans.

"This is an engineer drawing the lines, and they don't care what the collateral damage is going to be," said Luis DaRosa, who lives with his wife Gloria Rivera right next to the intersection.

"I don't trust it."

District 1 City Councilor Tony Economou, who represents the neighborhood in question, also opposed the project in its current form and asked DPW to reconsider.

Many residents currently struggle to pull out of their driveways during peak hours, and Economou worried that it would only become more difficult if more vehicles were moving through the intersection at a higher rate.

"Once there is a steady flow of traffic, it could be that much more difficult."

Yet several residents spoke in favor of the proposal.

"For the vast majority of residents on the west side of Worcester, it will be a very good improvement," said J. Robert Seder, who has been driving the route on a daily basis for over 40 years.

Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce President Dick Kennedy also lent his support to DPW's plans.

"It was a very unfortunate thing that this happened the way it did," said Councilor Kate Toomey, chair of the Public Works Committee.

Toomey asked Moylan to take several suggestions from the public under consideration, such as additional signage and a left-turn prohibition during peak hours, and report back with a final plan for the intersection at next week's City Council meeting. 

 

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