By Peter Manning
Recent changes to the intersection of Old Billerica Road and Route 62 West moved the traffic island to the side to form a T, improving visibility but also allowing a shift in turning lane priority. An extra turning-lane designed to help Old Billerica traffic filter onto 62 West was replaced to instead help 62 West turn onto Old Billerica, as noted in the following illustration.
Many residents living along Old Billerica Road—and in the immediate area—have noticed a sharp increase in traffic, backed up into their neighborhoods. This increase also makes a once-simple route to Bedford Center difficult. Kevin Lach, a resident living with the negative ramifications of this change firsthand, represented his neighbors as he presented the following effects—both good and bad—to the Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) at their October 10 meeting .
The change was intended to increase the flow of traffic heading from Bedford to Route 3. To this degree, Lach said the change was effective. In the old design, many residents noted cars would not respect the stop sign, treating the right-turning lane from Old Billerica Road on to Route 62 as a merge. This encouraged reckless driving as ignoring the sign became commonplace, posing danger for pedestrians. Restructuring the intersection to be more perpendicular than the previous design now forces drivers to slow into all turns, another positive change.
Unfortunately, the already tight turning radius of traffic bearing right from 62 onto Old Billerica has been made substantially worse. Lach stated trucks already had to take their turns wider than the lane in the intersection’s old design. Now, making that turn, especially with something in tow, is virtually impossible.
As Route 62 now has a dedicated turning lane onto Old Billerica, there is nothing stopping outbound traffic. While this is an improvement for those drivers, people turning left from Old Billerica onto 62 have an even smaller window than before to complete their turn. As Old Billerica has turned into a single lane, this further increases the buildup on Old Billerica Road.
After discussing the tangible effects this turn has caused, the TAC discussed potential next steps. No clear goals, timeline, or answers were given. One point was repeated, however. The street will never go back to looking as it did. The TAC promised to label this issue as a priority and proposed a few suggestions on next-steps.
Bedford requires all driving lanes to have an 11-foot width. If Old Billerica is able to accommodate this law, a right turning lane may be painted. In the long term, the TAC hopes a proposed roundabout, built upstream of this issue on Page Road, will reallocate a fair deal of the traffic, making driving easier on all parties.
In the end, the TAC acknowledged this issue was not properly presented to the community, nor were its potential (now-realized) repercussions fully considered. The TAC promised to use this as lesson for any future road projects.