ORLEANS – Most of those who spoke at the state’s Dec. 11 hearing on a proposed roundabout at routes 28 and 39 and Quanset Road thought it was a bright idea, but they didn’t want it to be too bright.
“There are 17 light fixtures in this plan,” Selectman Kevin Galligan told representatives of the state Department of Transportation and consultants from VHB. “This is over-lit. Picture coming from a dark space into this area. This needs to be dialed down, both the number of fixtures and the luminance… Approach and departure areas should allow drivers to accommodate their eyes.”
Orleans “is the eldest community in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” said Sims McGrath, who voted for the roundabout when he was the region’s representative to the Cape Cod Metropolitan Planning Organization. “Light gradation is important for a lot of our local drivers.” He said he expects the roundabout to slow down Route 28 traffic and reduce speeding past the nearby gas station, convenience store and post office.
Scott Brunner, project engineer with VHB, presented the 25 percent design stage of the project to almost 50 citizens. He said he encountered the tricky intersection in person very recently.
“I came up 39,” he said. “I didn’t expect much traffic. It happened to be the same time two people were coming out of Quanset. I had already been told about bad sight distance on the corners. I had trouble trying to see someone coming northbound on 28, trying to find the gap in this traffic and figure out what they were doing across the way. I started creeping forward. They didn’t seem to be moving, (but) they wound up going straight through (to Route 39). I had to hold off for that.”
Heard among the good-natured laughter from the crowd were “Welcome to the club!” and “Try it at night!”
Brunner said the proposed design will improve safety for all users, including cyclists and pedestrians; improve sight distances; reduce speeds; and provide crosswalks divided by “splitter” or “refuge” islands so walkers are crossing only one lane of traffic at a time. Cyclists will be able to go through the roundabout or take a small exit ramp up to a shared use path. Sidewalks and shoulders will be built on all three roads.
The state, using Commonwealth and federal funds, will pay the $4.7 million construction cost. The town is paying for design work; DPW/Natural Resources Director Tom Daley planned to ask selectmen last night to let him spend a final $250,000 of the town’s state Chapter 90 highway money toward that end. “When all is said and done,” he said, “$400,000 to $500,000 of our Chapter 90 money is getting a $4.7 million value.”
Brunner said design work should be complete this year for bid advertisement in the spring of 2021. Construction could begin after Labor Day of that year. At least one lane of traffic in each direction will be maintained during most of the work.
Seven land takings will be required, along with the acquisition of nine permanent and 14 temporary easements. Property owners in the area can contact the DOT’s Right of Way Bureau for more information at 857-368-8710 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the hearing, Peter Coneen, a Route 39 resident for 43 years, said the road is down-gradient as it passes his house less than 1,000 feet from the intersection. “People go by at 50 miles per hour,” he said. “It’s a popular speed trap. Ten to 12 people go straight through that intersection. Some get lucky and leave only car parts on the two islands. The only way to attenuate the speed coming in is lighting.” Coneen stressed, however, that the area is a residential neighborhood and should be lit accordingly. “We don’t need to turn this into a navigational aid to space,” he said.
Nancy Jorgensen asked that cobblestones and bricks be considered for the center of the roundabout. Citing the sad condition of plantings of the roundabout at routes 28 and 6A, she said, “Please consider a maintenance-free circle… We don’t need weeds in the middle of a circle at a main gateway to our community.” On the other hand, Judith Bruce said, “We do not need more impervious surface. (The plantings) can be natives that use very little water. We need more plants.”
“Overall, people are happy with 28 and 6A,” Daley said. “The comments I get are on the landscape. It looks horrible.” He said that local groups had intended to maintain that circle but were told they could not due to safety concerns. After recent conversations with a DOT landscape architect, however, Daley is confident that the town will be allowed to maintain both circles.
Gail Rogers, who lives off Quanset Road, noted that traffic coming from the Orleans-Eastham rotary on Route 28 and flowing through the roundabout toward South Orleans can back up Route 6A traffic from downtown as far back as the Cape Cod Five. She was worried that cars headed south on 28 will continue to cause backups on Route 39 and limit opportunities to merge into the rotary.
Rogers joined in asking the planners to tone down the lighting. “The only thing that crosses the crosswalk at night is a raccoon or possum,” she said. “There’s a motel right on the corner where people are going to be trying to sleep, and houses on that corner.” Rogers, who moved from a brightly-lit corner of Connecticut , said that now “all we can see is the stars.”