WEST CHATHAM — The new roundabout at the corner of Main Street and George Ryder Road is taking shape, and there have been reports that particularly long tractor trailers have had trouble navigating the traffic circle. The news seems to support longtime concerns raised by critics of the new traffic plan, but officials say the tractor trailer problem is temporary.
Last Tuesday, a truck pulling a car carrier trailer got stuck in the new layout while traveling west through the roundabout.
“We are aware of several [tractor trailer] units and vehicles with large trailers in tow having difficulty primarily traveling west on Route 28 at the George Ryder intersection,” Deputy Chatham Police Chief Michael Anderson said. The layout has yet to be finalized, he noted. As of last week, crews had yet to install a sloped area between the center of the roundabout and the travel lane, which large vehicles can drive over. When that work is complete, project engineers say the problem will be solved.
Town Manager Jill Goldsmith acknowledged the car carrier mishap in her public newsletter.
“It clipped the ‘T-100’ curb that lines the outside of the roundabout apron. This large curb with an apron is intended to be accessed by larger vehicles/trucks. However, the stamped concrete apron to it has not been installed yet,” she wrote. “MassDOT directed the contractor to fill the area with gravel temporarily to avoid this happening again. The stamped concrete apron has been approved and the contractor will schedule the installation. If it cannot be installed before winter, MassDOT will install a temporary hot mix asphalt apron for the winter.” MassDOT does not believe a redesign is required for this area, Goldsmith wrote.
DPW Director Tom Temple said the temporary gravel apron is now in place, and 18-wheelers are navigating the roundabout without problems.
The new roundabout is part of the wholesale redesign of Route 28 between George Ryder Road and Barn Hill Road, where a second roundabout will be installed. Temple said work on that traffic circle will continue this week, and the pavement may be installed as early as Friday. The goal, he said, is to have the entire area paved before Thanksgiving, “so you’re not dealing with bad weather and the gravel.”
Another component of the roadway redesign also appears to be creating problems. The entrances to roads and driveways, known as curb cuts, are markedly narrower in some locations than they were previously.
When driving east and entering the post office parking lot at the Kream ‘n Kone, contractor Robb Morrison said his pickup truck pulling a trailer either has to veer into the driveway’s exit lane or run up over the new curb.
“They’ve just restricted that area to small cars,” he said. When pulling a trailer, his larger truck simply can’t navigate the driveway, Morrison said. He urged officials to revisit the size of the curb cuts, “and not just say, ‘well, it’s too late now.’”
Temple said his office received a few calls about the curb cuts and went to the job site to inspect them. While the new entrances are much smaller than they were before, they meet applicable standards, he said. Still, Temple conveyed his concerns to MassDOT and to the contractor, and they will widen certain curb cuts “to accommodate everybody and make sure their concerns have been met.”
The company overseeing the project, Lawrence Lynch Corp., has been very responsive to the concerns of businesses and abutters, Temple said.
“We’ve had a good contractor who’s been great,” he said. Though they favored a plan to restrict traffic flow on Route 28 to one direction at all times, they agreed to allow alternating two-way traffic to allow easier access to businesses, Temple said. In his frequent visits to the area, Temple said he’s usually stopped in traffic between four and seven minutes. The longest delay was 14 minutes, but crews were working to repair a water main break that day.
“It was all the wrong things at the wrong time. That was the longest day,” he said.