The Chatham Board of Selectmen may have been premature in choosing a preferred design for the Crowell Road-Route 28 intersection improvement project. Although discussions about the intersection have been ongoing for at least two years, it wasn't until consultants presented detailed plans for the three alternatives – a roundabout, new signals or no action – in August that interest was piqued enough to elicit the sort of comments necessary to gauge public opinion. At a followup meeting last month, it was clear that those attending did not like the prospect of expanding the intersection to include turning lanes and new overhead signals, while the idea of a roundabout – so roundly lambasted in West Chatham – emerged as the preferred plan.
Aside from the engineers and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation saying that a roundabout is not feasible in this location, chiefly because of topography, a traffic circle has another very serious mark against it, one that we haven't heard mentioned in any of the discussions thus far.
According to the documents prepared by consultants Howard Stein Hudson, at peak times in the summer, 30 to 40 pedestrians cross the intersection per hours, a figure that from our observations seems low. Currently, there are no pedestrian crossing lights, and those trying to get from one side of the intersection to the other often take their lives in their hands, especially during the summer. While the proposed new signal plan will include pedestrian crosswalk signals, no such accommodation is made for the rotary. There are also no pedestrian signals at the downtown rotary 1,700 feet to the east, and crossing it can be hazardous. Advantage new signal option.
Concerns about the expanded intersection plan focus on its size, which many feel would be out of scale with the community. There's some truth to that; but it doesn't have to look like the Routes 137 and 39 intersection in East Harwich, as some fear. While the intersection definitely needs to be upgraded to handle the amount of traffic that now flows through it, more logical and efficient turning lanes and new signals could likely be accommodated within much the same layout as currently exists. Selectmen should ask the engineers to revisit the plan with an eye toward scaling back the expanded intersection concept.
Pedestrian accommodations – both crosswalks, signals and sidewalks – needs to be a major factor in the decision on the intersection upgrade. And there's no doubt that it needs upgrading. In the “Remember When” photo published in last week's paper, the intersection, circa 1964, could be glimpsed in the background from the former Goodspeed Gulf station. There were no signals and a crosswalk through the middle. Signals went in a few years later, a recognition that traffic volumes had increased. Think of the changes Chatham has gone through since then, and how many more vehicles, and people, pass through that intersection today. The improvements are long overdue.