Residents Voice Concerns about North Road Traffic at Pine Hill and Chelmsford Roads

The consultants showed maps of both the Pine Hill Road intersection (above) and the intersection with Chelmsford Road – Courtesy image (c) all rights reserved

By Julie McCay Turner

DPW Director David Manugian at Thursday's North Road input meeting - Image (c) JMcCT, 2016 all rights reserved
DPW Director David Manugian at Thursday’s North Road input meeting – Image (c) JMcCT, 2016 all rights reserved

Residents shared vivid details about traffic problems along North Road, especially near the intersections of Pine Hill Road and Chelmsford Road, during a community input meeting at Town Hall on Wednesday.

Their stories and traffic data will inform the work of Green International Affiliates, Inc., a civil and structural engineering firm hired by the Town to suggest improvements for the intersections.

Characterized as an ‘urban minor arterial road’ by MassDOT, North Road is a heavily-used route for out-of-town traffic traveling through Bedford during rush hour, with the majority of the cars heading south during the morning commute and reversing direction each afternoon. Recent traffic data presented at the meeting counted 14,800 vehicles along North Road on an average day, and 5,800 vehicles on Pine Hill Road.

Varied speed limits along the length of North Road could be confusing to motorists, resulting in speeding where the limits are lower. At least one speaker suggested that the higher speeds might have been set at a time when the population density was lower, with fewer families and young children in the neighborhoods immediately adjacent to North Road.

Residents report daily honking and screeching brakes at both of the intersections, along with near-miss collisions. There were stories of needing to leap into bushes or snow banks to avoid collisions, even while walking dogs or wheeling children in strollers; being clipped on the arm by the side mirror of a passing vehicle; and cars passing school buses stopped in the road with their lights flashing.

Residents disputed crash data analysis that showed the accidents at each intersection at or below state averages. Anecdotally, residents report that minor fender-benders often go unreported.

Sargent Paul Saunders noted that both intersections are primary enforcement areas for the Bedford Police Department.

While increasing the roads’ capacity and improving sightlines could be an easy answer to the traffic woes, Ann Bickford urged the planners to emphasize changes that would convince drivers that they are traversing family neighborhoods, not driving along thruways.

To enhance the neighborhood feel of the road, attendees voiced general support for the easements that sidewalks would necessitate.

According to the consultants’ presentation, the North Road project will maximize safety at the intersections of Pine Hill and Chelmsford roads, while respecting the scenic characteristics of the roadways’ mature trees and stone walls, with the least possible impact on abutters’ properties.

Helpful resources from the DPW web site:

After their deliberations, the consultants will present three proposals for the Town to consider.

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Bob Dorer
Bob Dorer
5 years ago

Unfortunately I was unable to attend this meeting but I trust the consultants have already been provided with the various efforts over the years to fix the Chelmsford Road / North Road intersection not the least of which was some ideas considered by the Transportation Advisory Committee but that never got any traction and the significant public input they received in the last five years. The public record also has much information from more than one Planning Board hearing on the topic going back at least 20 years. I sure hope the engineers do not starting from scratch, it would not be an effective use of our contract with them. The bottom line is this is a very dangerous intersection that really needs to be addressed in a significant way. The concept raised during this meeting about slowing traffic down and making drivers understand this is not a speedway but rather a real residential area is the first step for sure. I know requesting lower speed limits is heresy and I know all about the supposed 85 percentile requirements but I think if we put our minds to it we could really succeed in getting a 35 MPH speed limit for North Rd for its entire length. Our goal should be 35 MPH speed limits max on the full length of all our numbered roads in Bedford; Rt. 62, 4, and 225.

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