HARWICH — Thanks to hedges and other landscaping, as well as a slight bend in Route 28, entering traffic from Freeman Street or Snow Inn Road in Harwich Port can be a white-knuckle experience. The traffic safety committee has asked the selectmen to make changes to improve visibility at the intersection.
Traffic Safety Committee Chair Gerald Beltis said the crossroad has been the site of 13 accidents in recent years. In a presentation to selectmen last week, Beltis told the board the design of Route 28 with hills and curves does not allow for adequate visibility for either drivers or for pedestrians seeking to cross Route 28 or to take turns from Snow Inn Road or Freeman Street. He said a vehicle exiting those side streets needs to be in the middle of Route 28 to see oncoming traffic.
“A vehicle in the middle of the road is not a safe situation for the person trying to go forward nor the person driving on Route 28,” Beltis said.
As well as the layout of Route 28, vegetation further reduces sight lines at the intersection, and while Beltis said some brush trimming has taken place, more is needed. Some of the hedges and plants that impair visibility belong to houses three to four properties away from the intersection, he said.
“If a vehicle is on Freeman Street and looking to turn onto or cross Route 28, the bushes further down on the left restrict visibility. While we understand that some of this vegetation may be on private property and not on the town right-of-way, the town does have the responsibility for the safe usage of the various roads for vehicles and pedestrians,” Beltis said.
The traffic safety committee chairman said these conditions have generated a number of complaints and concerns for several years and Selectman Michael MacAskill has asked the committee to look into it. Board Chairman Larry Ballantine said his board referred this matter to the committee based on letters they have received.
Beltis said the committee is looking to have wooden stakes installed to mark the right-of-way layout on the north side of Route 28 from Freeman Street east to the church property on the north side of Route 28 and west to the Schoolhouse Ice Cream shop, and on the south side from Snow Inn Road east to the Wychmere overlook.
Beltis said Wychmere Harbor Real Estate, LLC has been coming before town boards for special permits and variances; he proposed that the developer might be willing to help out with a study of conditions or for engineering work as a way of giving back to the town.
Selectman Stephen Ford suggested the staking could be tied to the Saquatucket Harbor to Harwich Port sidewalk project, and while Town Engineer Griffin Ryder said that would be possible, the committee is looking for more immediate action. Committee members Beltis and Linda Cebula said the sidewalk project could be three to four years in the future, and the safety improvements are needed immediately. Also, while the sidewalk is proposed for the south side of the road, the major sight line issues are on the north side, Beltis said.
Area resident Robert Nickerson also recommended the 35 miles per hour speed limit sign coming into that intersection should be reduced to 25 mph.
Selectman Ed McManus said there appears to be consensus that the safety improvements are needed, but the funds for such a project need to be identified. Town Administrator Joseph Powers said he should be able to find the funding in his administrative budget, and Ryder said they could work with the engineering firm which did the sidewalk layout work for Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Ryder said they should be able to do the staking for about $4,000.
Selectmen approved the motion to have the stakes installed using existing funds.