By Peter Manning
Old Billerica Road’s intersection with Burlington Road/Route 62 was once more on the agenda at the January 14 Selectmen’s meeting. DPW director David Manugian presented the results of a traffic study done over the past few months. It confirmed nearly all complaints put forward by residents of Sweeney Ridge and the neighboring roads. Traffic backups have increased substantially and decongestion along Route 62 has been marginal at best. The study also found drivers entering Bedford along Route 62 drive well above the speed limit to the point of endangering other drivers. Residents may have noticed the new, flashing speed limit sign placed along that stretch. The board admitted this turn fails on nearly all desired results.
The Selectmen then brainstormed possible solutions. Mike Rosenberg joked about Lexington’s “catch-all solution” of putting signal lights at every intersection but genuinely considered its worth at this turn.
The added “left turn only” lane fails to minimize traffic in any meaningful way because it supports only three or four turning cars at a time. Extending the left turn lane was suggested, though it seemed to be passed over quickly.
Margot Fleischman brought up the initial bike study which this turn was derived from. The study proposed a roundabout on Page Road. She reiterated a point she had raised on a couple occasions that this addition would decongest traffic upstream of the Old Billerica turn. No one landed on a serious solution, only promises to continue investigations.
Town Manager Sarah Stanton reminded everyone that traffic does not exist in isolation, stating any changes Concord, Cambridge or Lexington (for example) makes would change traffic on a macro-scale. She urged the selectmen and DPW to expand their focus on a greater scale and remember that this turn is a symptom of a greater issue, namely Bedford existing as a cut-through town for 128 and Route 3.
The Selectmen opened the floor to concerned residents. The following suggestions were presented:
Residents leaving Old Billerica miss the dedicated right turn lane. As of right now, the added dedicated-left cut into the space that existed for the right turn. Bedford requires each road to have an eleven-foot width. Even without the newly added garden, the street cannot currently support two Old Billerica turning lanes and the left turn on Route 62. The added sidewalk is great for bikers but feels like a half measure, as bikers are still required to bike on the street for most of Route 62.
As mentioned above, people still take Route 62 into Bedford far too fast. The flashing speed limit sign is a great first step but should be moved even closer to Route 3, allowing drivers more time to slow before the intersection. A further traffic study will be conducted, though results will take as long as April to finish.
(The 23-page preliminary review by consultants Tighe & Bond can be found on the Public Works website httpss:/www.bedfordma.gov/sites/bedfordma/files/news/obr_update_2019-01-10_1.pdf)