By Jordan Stewart
It was apparent from the full house at Monday’s Selectmen meeting on May 6 that the updates on the Old Billerica Road improvements were a topic on many minds. Director of Public Works David Manugian presented the results of data gathered by engineering firm Tighe & Bond on traffic flow at the intersection of Old Billerica Road and Burlington Road (Rte 62). The Transportation Advisory Committee and Bicycle Advisory Committee were consulted, and the feedback was used to create alternatives for the area. The first was a short-term plan, which they hope to implement before the end of the year. A few different long-term solutions were suggested for later examination.
The short-term plan addresses three goals:
- Improve visibility, specifically for drivers taking a left onto Route 62 East from Old Billerica Road,
- Decrease traffic build up on all sides of the intersection, and
- Improve pedestrian safety.
Proposed changes for the short-term plan to accomplish these goals include creating separate right and left turn lanes on Old Billerica Road and pushing the crosswalk farther back from the intersection.
Manugian acknowledged that the primary concern expressed by both TAC and BAC was the lack of accommodations for cyclists, specifically on the Old Billerica Road side. Questions arose from both the Selectmen and the audience after the plan was presented. Selectman Ed Pierce questioned how cars turning left from Rte. 62 East onto Old Billerica Road would be able to see incoming cars from around the bend. Many residents expressed concerns that the changes did not cover enough of the problems at the intersection. They felt that pushing the crosswalk back would not stop any drivers taking a left off Rte 62 East from pushing right into the intersection. They also said that not enough was being done to prevent one of the primary issues at the intersection –speeding.
Both the Selectmen and the public acknowledged that the current speed limit of 25 mph is hardly ever followed. One resident, who lives close enough to carefully observe the intersection, explained that not only is it broken often, but is done so egregiously, with many drivers reaching speeds of up to twice the speed limit. Although there was call for more to be done, Selectman Emily Mitchell explained that it was the first step. The short-term plan was created as an improvement to the current situation, not as a final solution, and it addressed many of the primary concerns expressed in previous meetings. The Selectmen approved the plan, allowing it to proceed into an official design stage. The long-term solutions which will be developed later were not discussed at length, but included the possibility of a traffic signal or a roundabout.
A Report from the Community Gardens Task Force
The Selectmen also heard updates from the Community Gardens Task Force, a group organized to find a second location for town garden plots since the current garden area at Jordan East is often at capacity A survey conducted by the task force brought 287 responses.
Then the task force set off to find a new home for a second garden location. In the end, they came down to three choices: Jordan West (an area off Hartwell Road), 350A Concord Road (a space at the end of Lavender Lane), and Middlesex Community Gardens (already existing plots at Middlesex Community College). Ultimately, they recommended 350A Concord Road, as it is right off the bike path, and parking could be shared for the two. The Selectmen thanked the group for their hard work, and said they would take it into consideration as the project moves forward.