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Route 1A Reconstruction: Good or bad?

December 7, 2010

Selectman Mike Berry calls it “the biggest project to happen in Walpole in a long time.” The massive Route 1A reconstruction project, expected to cost the state millions of dollars, will result in the complete rehabilitation of Route 1A between CVS in Walpole Center and the Norwood town line.

What does the project mean for you? 180 explores some of the unfortunate side effects:

New Traffic Lights

A major result of the Route 1A reconstruction plan recently approved by Selectmen will be the installation of new traffic lights at several intersections along Route 1A between CVS and the Norwood town line. The intersections at Fisher Street, Gould Street, North Street, and Bullard/Willett streets will all be equipped with new traffic lights, according to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT).

It seems concerning that Route 1A, which is already a major thoroughfare in town, will be further held up by a new series of traffic lights along the route. Traffic jams are already very common along Route 1A near where these intersections are located, especially during rush hour. New traffic lights will only cause even further traffic delays.

Traffic lights at the intersection of Gould Street and Main Street, in particular, seem unnecessary. This intersection already has a flashing yellow light for motorists on Route 1A, and this intersection is just like nearly every other intersection in Walpole. In fact, Page Avenue, which is one of the streets at this intersection, is a dead end and is very infrequently used.

Gould Street remains a major connector between Main Street and North Street, but it is not unlike many other major streets in Walpole that serve as connectors between major boulevards and smaller streets. Traffic lights at the Gould Street intersection seem unnecessary and problematic, to say the least. Once traffic lights are installed at this location, what will be next – traffic lights at every other moderately-used street that connects to 1A?

The intersections along the reconstructed stretch of Route 1A are not considered to be some of the most dangerous in Walpole, according to the Walpole Police Department’s annual reports. The intersections that are consistently ranked year-after-year by Walpole Police as being the most dangerous in Walpole are three intersections along Route 1, the High Plain and East Street intersection, Common and School streets, Washington and Short streets, and Washington and High Plain streets.

The least dangerous intersection of these, at Washington and High Plain, only had 3 accidents in 2009, which was down from 5 in each of the three years preceding. Yet, that is what the Walpole Police Department calls one of the most dangerous intersections in Walpole.

It seems apparent that the intersections MassDOT proposes installing traffic lights at get few accidents per year, if any, and are not considered the most dangerous in Walpole. The intersections along Main Street may make a lot of drivers nervous, but the statistics don’t seem to prove that they are actually as dangerous as motorists think they are. So it is not clear why there is such a pressing need for new traffic lights.

The DOT insists that the traffic signals will be “synchronized.” Do not be fooled by this. You will be waiting in long lines of traffic. Regardless, synchronization still doesn’t answer the question of why we need this many traffic lights on 1A in the first place.

Higher Costs Down the Road

After the state completes the reconstruction project, the town will be forced to take over control of maintenance on that stretch of road. That means higher costs in the future, that future Walpole taxpayers will be forced to bear and future selectmen will be forced to cope with. This town has a history of making poor decisions and then leaving it to future leaders to deal with.

The next generation of town leaders will be forced to pay for the maintenance costs on this stretch of road. Snowplowing costs will be covered by the town in the future. With this stretch of road one of the busiest in town and stretching through business districts, plowing costs will likely climb considerably. Town Administrator Michael Boynton and the rest of our town officials will likely be long gone by the time we learn the spiraling costs of maintaining such a lengthy stretch of road.

How much will the town be forced to pay to maintain Route 1A in the future? The costs will inevitably climb year after year. Is it worth it? That is an open-ended question for all residents to ponder.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Francis Frostein permalink
    May 3, 2016 1:18 PM

    Hate to break it to you, but roads require maintenance—would you rather carry on maintaining a very old, deteriorated highway–or one that has been so thoroughly reconstructed so as to be considered ‘new’?

  2. March 22, 2017 11:15 PM

    I know this post is something like over six years old now, and the situation with 1A is still the same, though the State does seem to be closer to actually starting work on the section from Walpole center to the Norwood line. it could begin in 2019 or 2020.

    Roads require regular maintenance and highways like Route 1A get a great deal of use; the current design of that section of 1A was never intended for anything near the amount of traffic and stress it handles daily. The last time in significant improvements were made to that section of 1A was back in the 1920s, when the state widened and paved sections of 1A south of Dedham with concrete, a common practice for major roads in that era.
    This buckling concrete slab sometimes mentioned in articles and posts on this matter is a major contributor to the roadway’s deteriorating condition. An eight-inch thick concrete slab roadway, not reinforced except for wire mesh under it, on a gravel bed is the original roadway surface, built back around 1922–it has been repaved with layers of asphalt a number of times since—however, you’ll notice large cracks every 10-12 feet or so, which sometimes buckle in cold weather (frost heaving). This is a result of the concrete’s expansion joints. Also, vertical cracks are a result of previous, improperly built widenings in past times.
    It will really serve it right to completely excavate the entire roadway down to the bed and rebuild it entirely with new material.

    The 1A project calls for removing the old roadway’s concrete and foundation–a new roadbed would be built with a two or three layer bituminous concrete pavement, each about 2-3″ thick. Numerous other improvements would be made, such as traffic lights, increased visibility at some dangerous intersections and curves reduced. New and improved drainage would also be there, which is vital.
    Once that project is done, and the that section of 1A turned over to the Town of Walpole, it will not need any significant repairs for many years–resurfacing likely will not be needed for about another 18-20 years or so.

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