Transportation Advisory Committee Grapples with North Road Intersections and Traffic Calming

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By Danae Bucci

More road construction could be ahead in Bedford following discussions at the Transportation Advisory Committee’s (TAC) August 17 meeting.

The meeting focused on two topics: The first was which blueprints should be used for the intersections at Pine Hill Road and North Road as well as at North Road and Route 4 (Chelmsford Road.) The second was the introduction of a new Traffic Calming Policy Initiative that the committee hoped could benefit all communities, not just Bedford. Although decisions could not be made on either of the items, the members who were there heard about the topics in depth.

“I think we need to have the larger group here before we [make any decisions],” said board member Soraya Stevens, who came to the meeting late. “I would like to wait until the 21st, now that we sort of know and have a better understanding of the plans,” she went on to say.

The Committee needed a better understanding in order to evaluate the intersection spreadsheet, because each intersection came with three options for how that road could be configured. Adrienne St. John, Public Works Engineer, was present to clear any confusion about the plans.

TAC member Scot Shaw said, “On choice [number] three there is one thing that has me concerned as a cyclist, and it is that on southbound on North Road, continuing on Route 4 I’ve got those cars coming in from Chelmsford Road if they’re heading south on Route 4. I’m concerned about that point.”

Cyclists were one of the main concerns for a number of the road plans. Avoiding a situation where a cyclist and a car would have to merge into the same road at the same time was a main priority for the committee. “Can you put a phase on a signal that is just for cyclists?” asked Selectman Liaison Margot Fleischman. St. John responded that that had been done in Concord center and she would ask the planners if they would be able to do anything similar in Bedford.

Another concern with the intersections was crosswalks. When discussing the intersection at North Road and Route 4, Ralph Hammond said, “If kids were walking to school they would be heading south and that’s a concern.” The problem is that there is no sidewalk on either side of the road heading in that direction. St. John, recognizing the issue, said she will talk to contractors about including sidewalks on the plans.

Something that could not be engineered into the plans, however, is how to reduce speeds on these roads. People have been known to hit speeds of up to 50 mph on North Road. Fleischman wants to  develop safeguards, such as traffic lights and stop signs, that guarantee drivers will slow down. “If we could find ways to engineer North Road so that cars didn’t travel as fast that would be good for the quality of life for people who live along North Road.”

Next, Fleischman turned to the Traffic Calming Policy Initiative. “Because traffic calming is kind of a cross cutting problem, it’s a combination of engineering and enforcement and education,” said Stevens who’s been working on creating this policy for a “couple years” with Dan Silverman.

The policy creates a process for residents to request improvements to their streets hoping to reduce excessive traffic speeds. There would need to be minimum requirements for traffic speeds and volume as well as neighborhood support for such a policy. If the neighborhood were to meet all of the requirements, the town would collect data and determine how they could fix the issue. The town of Concord recently implemented a similar policy.

Due to the late hour the meeting was adjourned. The next meeting will be on September 21 in Town Hall.