Warrant Article 19: Improvements for the Intersection of North and Chelmsford Roads

The most difficult intersection in town is on the verge of a major overhaul.

After five years of study and design, the plan for improving the safety at the corner of North and Chelmsford Roads is in the hands of annual town meeting on May 15.

The proposal is part of a bundle of transportation-related items embedded in the capital article, number 19. The total cost of section 22-26 is $3.82 million, most of which is for the intersection improvements.

Because of the magnitude of the expenditure, the article will be presented as a bond, which requires at least a two-thirds majority for approval.

If voters agree, bids will be invited right after the start of the new fiscal year on July 1. Construction could start in the autumn, and it could take up to a year to complete, said David Manugian, public works director. He added that a notice of intent will be filed with the Conservation Commission if the article is approved.

Highlights of the reconfigured intersection plans are:

  • A triangular island creating a channelized lane for northbound traffic heading for the Route 3 interchange in Billerica;
  • A traffic signal, regulating turns from southbound traffic onto Route 4. The light also affects two-way traffic on Chelmsford Road;
  • A sidewalk on the west side of North and Chelmsford Roads between Minuteman Drive and the intersection, and then northbound along the east side of Chelmsford Road to the town line.
  • Five-foot-wide bicycle lanes from the intersection to Sweetwater Avenue.

“The intersection, as configured, has bad sightlines with the acute angle and can be confusing as to where one is supposed to stop when traveling southbound on North Road,” noted Scot Shaw, who chairs the Select Board’s Transportation Advisory Committee.

According to data from the Police Department, there have been four motor vehicle accidents at the intersection over the past five years. “Though recent years may have been better, we got enough of an indication that it is a problem area, and car accidents aren’t the only consideration,” said Shaw. He noted that there were 10 accidents at the junction in the previous three years.

Shaw emphasized that the plans are designed “to make it safer for cars, bikes, and pedestrians to interact. It was identified as a moderate priority in the 2015 Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan, which called for geometric changes.”

“The redesign will be providing the opportunity to put in more sidewalks in the area and make safer crosswalks, with signals, so that pedestrians can use the intersection,” he continued.

Manugian said the improvements include a small piece of the parking lot of Renzo’s hair salon. He added that design changes will deter drivers from using the lot as a cut-through. Jeanette Rebecchi, DPW transportation program manager, has met with about a dozen other abutters regarding easements, according to Manugian.

Adrienne St. John, engineer with the DPW, said there are no plans for street closings during construction. “Traffic shouldn’t be too impacted during the day,” which will extend from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Uniformed details will manage the traffic, she said.
Shaw noted that “there will also be the opportunity to experiment with different paint options as we have seen in other towns recently, and the latest design that I saw from DPW included significant use of green paint where cars and bikes might interact.”

“Most notable to me is a green striped bike lane for bikes going straight north on Chelmsford Road, where they are in danger from cars turning right to go north on North Road,” he reported. The committee hopes that “these tests will be met with approval, and we can do more of them throughout town.”

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at mike@thebedfordcitizen.org, or 781-983-1763

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