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Repost: Route 1A Reconstruction – Good or bad?

January 26, 2012

The Town of Walpole is putting out a call to residents to contact their legislators and state officials to support the reconstruction of Route 1A (Main Street) from East Street to the Norwood town line.

In 2010, 180 pointed out that this project would bring a number of new traffic lights to that stretch of Route 1A, and that the agreement with the state means the town will take over from the state all maintenance costs for this two-mile stretch of road in the future. The town barely has the money to plow and fix potholes on the roads it already owns – now it will have two more miles to look over?

I’m very concerned about this project, even if I’m in the minority on this.

Personally, I hate sitting at red lights, especially when they will be so close together as this plan calls for. I have never had an issue with getting through this area of town, and even during rush hour I don’t have an issue with it. I think the traffic lights should be taken out of this project.

I’m also questioning why this stretch of Route 1A needs to be reconstructed. The road seems perfectly fine to me, and at a time when the state is dealing with a gaping deficit in FY 2013, I question the wisdom of working on a project like this. Government-funded construction projects notoriously last longer than anticipated and cost too much. I’m concerned the road might be ripped up for years while workers dawdle on the side of the road and police details make obscene wages. The project is estimated to cost over $10 million and last three construction seasons. I’m predicting it will be over-budget and last longer than expected. We will all pay for it in the end.

The following is what I wrote about this project last December:

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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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Karmarge permalink
    January 26, 2012 1:55 PM

    The traffic light necessity along Main Street is not necessarily because of safety, but because of traffic bottlenecks in North Walpole. We need a light at North Street/Main Street. Why? Because cars attempting to make left hand turns take forever, which means that cars wanting to go right drive up next to the car wanting to make the left, thus both cars turning at the same time. This is not legal. This has caused several accidents, and moreover, traffic backs up daily from North/Main onto North St and up onto Pemberton. It is a disaster. So, to avoid it, most of us take Robbins Road to 27 to not have to deal with the North St/Main St mess.

    The “no left hand turn” sign has been removed from across from Gill St after the new McDonalds went up. Another dangerous intersection when making left hand turns.

    Gould St: Cars making left hand turns from Gould cannot see the cars coming from the left. Try it. You’ll see. Actually, you wont see. 😉

    Fisher St: It’s busy. It’s dangerous, and we need it. Cars drive way too fast at that section. Same thing goes for Bullard at Main.

    I usually agree with your Walpole gripes, but not this one!

  2. lovewalpole permalink
    February 4, 2012 10:41 AM

    Agree with karmarge – 1A is far below standards for the traffic it carries. This work needs to be done. Try making a left hand turn onto 1A from any of these intersections. It can be very dangerous at times. If someone wants to get to the south quickly from Norwood to Foxboro or Wrentham without sitting at more lights they should be using Route 1

  3. James VS permalink
    September 18, 2012 3:54 AM

    This project has been discussed since at least 1996….The road really needs to be rebuilt as well as improved at a few places. The intersections at Bullard and 1A and Fisher Street at 1A have long reputations for accidents. I lived on Fisher St. from 1985 until 2005 and I have seen many….and the road itself deteriorate. There are also points where visibility is poor due to grades and curved that need to be corrected (they are slight actually).

    As for the road itself….even without any improvements/lights, the physical condition of the road is deteriorating badly. After sewer and water lines were installed in the later 1990s, it was paved over about 2000-2001, hiding what is below: a buckling, warping roadway.
    Those cracks one sees about every 10 feet or so, going horizontally across the pavement are stress cracks caused by buckling and settlement of an underlying concrete slab, which formally was the road’s surface…..back in the early 1920s, the State paved a lot of main roads with concrete. Over the years it was repaved with asphalt periodically. The 90-year old concrete (which essentially serves as the road’s foundation) has been failing for years now and it was not designed for trucks and such heavy traffic…..remember, Walpole was once a small mill/farming town! Even in the 1980s the traffic was much less than now….but even back then 1A was buckling due to the old concrete below. It really needs to be excavated and rebuilt with new material.

  4. James VS permalink
    September 18, 2012 4:02 AM

    and I will add: Better the town accept the road AFTER it is rebuilt to modern standards, therefore making routine maintenance less for years and years to come than accept it without any (or little) rebuilding and then be forced to incur those costs of maintaining an old, deteriorating, dangerous roadway that the state had offered to completely rebuild before signing it over! The choice is clear: let the state do its rebuilding and then we will have less to worry about. So will those who dare try to make a left from North Street 🙂
    Not abiding by this amounts to plain idiocy, which as the Author states (and I agree with), the town of Walpole has a habit of. Perhaps now the town will wake up and make the obvious decision.

  5. January 9, 2017 8:08 AM

    As far as I know, the State is prepared to begin construction on this stretch of Main Street (Route 1A) sometime in late 2019 or early 2020—though do not hold your breath: this project has been postponed numerous times over the last 10-odd years. However, according to MassDOT, design and funding are largely in place.

    I know this post is something like 5 years old now and since then I think the situation with that section of Route 1A has become even more problematic, chiefly due to an increase in traffic and deterioration of the roadway itself; it is VERY functionally obsolete, inadequate of current traffic usage and frankly, dangerous in a number of places. The intersections of Main and 1A and Main and 1A Gould are especially bad.

    The town is apparently going to take over responsibility of this stretch of road once the State does this reconstruction, which include a number of significant improvements. These include significant widening, improvements to major intersections, etc. Visibility will be improved at some of these places (such as where a small hill prevents visibility at Gould Street).

    It would be very foolish for the town to take over the road in its current condition, even if the State was to resurface it first. Let the state do its work, and then the town can take over the road after rebuilding. After the project, not only will expensive and much needed improvements be made (at State expense), but it will be substantially lower to maintain for many years to come as a result of being rebuilt from the base up.

    As for the roadway itself and what the Author states about its apparent condition:
    [quote]I’m also questioning why this stretch of Route 1A needs to be reconstructed. The road seems perfectly fine to me….I’m concerned the road might be ripped up for years while workers dawdle on the side of the road and police details make obscene wages. The project is estimated to cost over $10 million and last three construction seasons. I’m predicting it will be over-budget and last longer than expected. We will all pay for it in the end. [/quote]

    Ok, but does it make more sense to allow the State to take on that expense, rather than the town itself? The roadway is NOT in good condition, despite what might be apparent from the surface. Another poster also mentions something about this, and he/she is certainly correct.

    As of now, the surface of this section is overlayed on an old non-reinforced concrete slab roadway, built back around 1922-23 by the State. This was the last time any substantial construction was done on that section, with the old concrete being resurfaced with asphalt-concrete at times since, the last being around 10-15 years ago. When driving on it, you’ll see cracks in the road ever 10-12 feet–these are the result of expansion joints in the old underlying concrete below. Back in 1995-96, during the sewer project, these joints were opened in an effort to reduce buckling, though it seems as though that hasn’t solved the problem completely.

    The rebuilding project calls from completely ripping up the roadway, including the old concrete below, down to the roadbed of gravel, which this concrete sits on as a foundation. A few, much thicker foundation would be made, then a three-layer bitimous concrete (asphalt) roadway laid on top of the new foundation. This would easily last 18-23 years before requiring any significant resurfacing. As it stands now, the roadway, when it buckles and the cracks expand, helps reduce the service life—it is much better to allow the state to rebuild this old and deteriorated stretch of road to *modern* design standards and using modern, more durable materials for the vastly increased traffic flow now using 1A. The town will have in the long run a significantly lower maintenance cost for many years to come.

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