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Sudbury Town Center Traffic Changes

The intersection of Concord Road and Rte 27 has almost three times as many vehicle accidents as other intersections with the same amount of traffic. An average of ONE pedestrian per year leaves the intersection in an ambulance. In 2005, the Town of Sudbury created the SCIAC committee to guide the community thru the process of improving the intersection. There is a concise brochure about the project titled: Frequently Asked Questions.

There are three pages here. This page attempts to explain exactly what problems are and how they are addressed. The other two pages are the Timeline and Previous Plans, and some Visual Aids for 2013 Town Meeting. I will assume that since you are reading this, you agree that there is a problem. My goal is to convince you that the proposed plan is the best plan and that now it the time to act. There is contact info at the bottom if you have questions or comments.

Past

Present

Future

image from maps online
Town Center Now from Maps Online
 

The Problem

The root cause of the problems is that the 4 roads coming into the town center never met to form an intersection. This is clear from the 1856 map of the town center.

North/South Slalom

 

Concord Road was never a straight road through the intersection.
The road heading south is offset from the town center.
The southbound vehicles need to zig and zag to the right to
continue on Concord Road. One of the proposed plans made
the offset very large to accommodate traffic.

This can be fixed by moving the road north of the intersection
towards First Parish.

image slalomGeom.jpg
slalom thru the red dots
image slalomSat.jpg
same path on satellite

East/West Left Turn Lanes

Another byproduct of the North/South misalignment is that the
left turn lanes overlap in the center of the intersection.
The result is that the left turn lanes for each road
heads into the on coming lane.

East/West Bend

From the East, Old Sudbury Road curves to the left and
from the West, Hudson Road also zigs to the left.

This can be fixed by moving the road to the north into
the Common.

image bendGeom.jpg
Cap: bendGeom.jpg
image bendSat.jpg
Cap: bendSat.jpg

The Solution

image TownCenterDriving20150830Mash1.png
The blue line with traffic plan
image TownCenterDriving20150830Mash2.png
Old and new traffic paths on mashup
image TownCenterDriving20150830Mash3.png
Old and new traffic paths on old road
image TownCenterDriving20150830East1.png
The blue line with traffic plan
image TownCenterDriving20150830East2.png
Old and new traffic paths on mashup
image TownCenterDriving20150830East3.png
Old and new traffic paths on old road

Why is the current plan different than the plan presented at Town Meeting 2013?

The engineering and traffic analysis for the 2013 plan revealed that the lanes were too narrow for Rte 27. Route 27 is under the jurisdiction of the National Highway System, which requires design in conformance with their regulations - lanes need to be 12' wide. SCIAC Minutes. VHB proposed a single traffic arm, and removing the trafic islands. That plan was adopted to keep the footprint of the intersection small. The Town Meeting Article was about the money to do the project, not the exact design presented.

The Plan to Fix the Intersection ( and drainage )

The Town website has this description of the project. Town Center Frequently Asked Questions

Breifly, the plan to improve the intersection is actually 3 projects that will all be done at the same time:
1) Upgrade the ancient traffic signals. They have failed several times this year.
2) Install drainage. All of the oil and other waste that leaks out of the cars and trucks gets flushed into the stream that starts in Heritage park and end up Hop Brook. After every heavy rainstorm, there is a collection of gravel in the intersection.
3) Change the geometry of the roadway and pedestrian paths.

From the Frequently Asked Questions: WHAT EXACTLY IS BEING PROPOSED?
The intersection will remain basically where it is now, with a few changes.

- The pavement on Concord Road along the First Parish property will shift pavement approximately 8 feet to the west. Fieldstone retaining walls will be constructed to decrease the disturbance into the lawn at First Parish. The curb line in front of the Hosmer House will remain in its existing location. Hudson Road will be widened slightly on the south side to widen the traffic lanes.
- New post mounted signals with dedicated left turns and pedestrian phases will be installed.
- New walkways will be constructed on the Town Common, between Town Hall and the Flynn Building and at Grinnell Park.
- Drainage pipes with catch basins will be installed under the pavement. New drainage basins at Heritage Park and 15 Hudson Road will be constructed to collect and treat the stormwater.

- Granite curbing will be installed throughout the area. Shoulders will be graded, loamed and seeded.

- Fieldstone walls will be built at the Town Common, Grinnell Park and the Carpenters’ house.

- Excess pavement in front of Town Hall and at the entrances at Noyes School, Loring Parsonage and First Parish will be removed and vegetated.

- Utility transformers on the Town Common and First Parish lawn will be buried.

- New street lights will be installed and landscaping will be planted where necessary.

See more info for 2013 Town Meeting.

Summary of Community Goals from SCIAC's Final Report

March 2008 SCIAC produced their final report. It is 63 pages and discusses history, problems and plans. For more information on SCIAC see the SCIAC Web Page and check out the Timeline and Previous Plans.

The community goals appear on page 17:
1) Preserve and protect historic, cultural and natural resources in the center.
2) Improve safety and accessibility for all those that use Sudbury Center.
3) Improve traffic flow, but not traffic speed, through the center.
4) Protect the existing scale and visual character of the center.
5) Establish a clear sense of the town center as a civic location.

The proposed changes achieve all five goals. The first is safety (1). The new intersection and crosswalks will dramatically improve pedestrian and vehicle safety. The lane alignment and intelligent traffic signals will improve traffic flow, but not speed (2).

The goal of establishing a clear sense of a civic space (5) is accomplished by migrating the town common away from the intersection. Most of the area of the common that is taken near the intersection - to align the lanes for safety - is added back to the common in by making the road between Town Hall and the common narrower. There has been some pushback on making this lane one-way. Even if it is widened to make it two way, it will still be narrower than it is now at the intersections. Whether this is one way or two way is a minor detail in terms of the plan as a whole.

The other two goals – briefly - are to preserve and protect the historic resources (1) and the existing scale and character of town center (4). These goals were clearly reinforced at a public hearing at the Board of Selectmen meeting in June of 2010. Given that input, the proposed plan is the minimal plan that can address the safety concerns. The intersection itself will necessarily change. The lanes will be a little wider and there will traffic islands. There will be a stone wall in front of First Parish that will be very similar to the stone wall in front of Town Hall and a smaller wall between the common and the intersection. However, there will not be any overhead “mast arms” hanging over the intersection. From the center of the common, Grinnell Park, Heritage Park or the steps of First Parish, the visual character of the town center will not change in any material way.

Why This Plan?

The current plan is the 10th plan that has been drawn up and presented. Check out Timeline and Previous Plans. Another popular idea - the traffic circle just could not work because of the choke point between First Parish and the Hosmer House. In 2010 there were grand designs, however there was a strong reaction to those plans during the public discussion at the Board of Selectman's Meeting on June 1, 2010. (full minutes). As a result, the design was refocussed. Summary:

Chairman Drobinski summarized tonight’s feedback as reinforcing that the character of the Town Center is a priority and that a minimalist approach is preferred. He also stated that the feedback indicates that the Offset Tee Intersection proposal should be dismissed. Chairman Drobinski thanked the citizens for their interest and suggestions, and he concluded the discussion.

There are several constraints that have become apparent as the project progressed. The goals embody some constraints, but, there was one other very specific constraint that came out of the SCIAC process: no overhead mast arms. You can see a picture on the Timeline Page.

Another constraint that became clear at the beginning of this process is that First Parish is strongly opposed to a right turn lane. The current design will create 3 foot retaining wall at the corner in front of First Parish. A right turn lane would mean much less lawn, the loss of the sugar maple AND a 5 foot retaining wall. First Parish is allowing the modification of the common and and granting an easement of approximatedly 365 sq.ft. And, since SO many people take detours to avoid the intersection at rush hour, there would not be as much of an improvement as one might think. As the wait time Southbound on Concord shrinks, more people who take longer detours would start to come through the intersection. In the past week, I have waited over 8 minutes - when the traffic stops at Plympton Rd and another time 7 minutes. That has been my commute for most of the 29 years I've lived in Sudbury. I have had plenty of time to think about this. Many, many people drive around the intersection, if they can.

Still, there are many people who would like to see the Southbound traffic improve. The Town found an engineer who would design the intersection without overhead mast arms and without asking First Parish to give up land for a right turn lane. The result was the "Offset T" plan presented in 2010. This plan was very, very unpopular at the BoS meeting - as mentioned above.

After the BoS meeting, SCIAC and WorldTech presented Alternative 6, which was close to the current plan, except it brought the road several feet closer to the Hosmer House and had a cobble stone surface for the lane in front of Town Hall that was one way heading North. Even tho the traffic count for cars taking a left turn from the No Name road are small, each time that happened, it would clog the Southbound lane for a light cycle. So, the one way was reversed. And First Parish voted to grant an easement to allow the road to move back away from the Hosmer House.

There were a few more designs before the current plan was brought to Town Meeting in 2012, but, it was indefinitely postponed after a few minutes of education.

Why Now?

Fixing the Lights: We cannot install a new light system with the current poles. Since the current lights are so old, I believe they need custom engineering to create parts - depending on what has failed. Each year we wait, we throw more money away.

Overhead Mast Arms: The Town found an engineer who was willing to do the extra work to use signal poles instead of overhead mast arms. State road require overhead mast arms. At some point, it might be mandatory to use overhead mast arms in the Town Center.

Best Plan: The SCIAC team members as well as the Town employees and First Parish members spent a lot of time to understand the problem. Given all of the constraints, I believe this is the ONLY plan. If we kick this down the road, we will need to start over and the next plan may not be as good.

Pedestrian Accidents

The Accident Reports used by SEA Consultants, Inc., to prepare the Accident Data section in the SCIAC's Final Report (March 2008) were also made available to SCIAC and First Parish. The vehicle accidents were made into statistics - 2.83 times the state average. However, the pedestrian accidents reports got no further mention. Below are the bicycle and pedestrian accidents. Each victim, an average of one per year, left in an ambulance. That is TOO many!

Accident Reportfile     Date TimeVehicle 1Vehicle 2           Description
r200300000932134aAug 25, 2003       7:18 PM     West 27CrosswalkBicycle in crosswalk
r200400001379134bDec 10, 20046:39 PMEast 27CrosswalkPedestrian not at cross walk. Crossing to Hosmer House.
r200500001736056aDec 24, 20051:11 PMN. Concord   CrosswalkJogger hit in left turn lane.

 

YON - Jan C. Hardenbergh, I am putting this information up as a private citizen. I am a member of First Parish of Sudbury, UU and served on FPS Town Center task force and attended many SCIAC meetings. If you have comments or questions, send me email: jch at jch.com -`

Town Center Progress <> Town Center Planning <> Timeline and Previous Plans <> Info for 2013 Town Metting
last update 2013.04.07 - http://hardenbergh.org/places/sudbury/TownCenter/index.html 2010 page accidents