Residents voice concerns about roundabouts

Residents voice concerns about roundabouts

Dan and Jennifer Brousseau, left, ask questions of RIDOT project managers Steve Soderlund and Robens Innocent. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

CUMBERLAND – The pending double roundabout project at Route 295 and Diamond Hill Road has residents worried about everything from daytime traffic flow, to loss of vegetative buffers, to whether they’ll have enough time to turn in or out of their streets.

Representatives from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation listened to and answered questions about the project Monday evening, as about 100 residents, town employees, politicians and aspiring politicians descended on the community room at the Cumberland Public Library.

The reality appearing to dawn on most everyone by the end of Monday’s meeting was perhaps best summed up by resident Mike Titus. Though frustrated that RIDOT will “tell us” what Cumberland needs to fix its traffic problems at Chapel Four Corners and the exit ramps, Titus said it’s inevitable that the project will move forward, and it will be up to the town to “figure out how we can make it work for us.”

This is a “bad situation,” Titus said, and making it work could be as simple as drivers being courteous and letting others go first.

Other residents, who at times voiced loud displeasure at Monday’s meeting, had questioned the need to even add roundabouts, citing concerns about traffic and safety problems during and after the project is complete.

Mayor Bill Murray said the lengthy project will be a difficult one for Cumberland, but the current logjam in the area is “a situation that has to be fixed.” He noted that the town has been discussing the project with the state and refining it over the past four years, but ultimately the state decided the final design.

The roadwork project is set to begin next Wednesday, July 18, and run through December 2020, said Robens Innocent, a RIDOT project engineer. Much of the latter half of the job is expected to be much less disruptive to the town than the early stages.

According to RIDOT officials, the traffic management plan on the project bans lane closures during morning and evening rush hours, requires one lane for drivers to be open at night, with alternating traffic, and requires two shifted lanes to be open during the day.

Nicole Gaudreau, of nearby Ferncrest Drive, was one of those who shared concerns with RIDOT officials about the timing of the whole three-phase corridor, including realigning Chapel Four Corners and adding two roundabouts. Green lights at Chapel Four Corners currently aren’t long enough, she said, meaning drivers are pushing the limits on red lights and blocking the intersection for cars that then have green lights.

RIDOT representatives assured Gaudreau and others that all parts of the redesigned roadway are intended to work together to keep traffic moving. A realignment of Chapel Four Corners will cut out one of six current “phases” in the light system and should add about 15 to 20 seconds to green lights. Added turn lanes will allow more cars to move through the intersection in a timely manner, said project manager Steve Soderlund.

Residents of both Shirley Drive, on the Dave’s Market side of Route 295, and Broadview Avenue, on the J’s Deli side, said they fear the new realities of trying to enter and exit streets that are already difficult when roundabouts are keeping traffic flowing by. RIDOT officials responded that they’ll simply wait for a gap in the traffic before going.

Others, such as Home Avenue residents Dan and Jennifer Brousseau, said they’re happy about the addition of the roundabouts for getting out of Broadview Avenue because if traffic is bad as they try to take a left onto Diamond Hill Road, they can simply take a right, go around the roundabout, and continue on their way.

The primary reason the Brousseaus attended Monday’s meeting, however, was their concern about losing the extensive tree line they currently have between their family’s “dream home” and the Route 295 south exit ramp. They were assured that though they’ll lose the trees, RIDOT plans to add shrubbery around a new stormwater basin.

The Brousseaus said they were impressed with the amount of “intelligent research” that’s gone into the roundabout project. It was clear, they said, that designers are thinking about where drivers are coming from and going to.

Resident Nicole Cameron said her main concerns coming into the meeting revolved around how RIDOT will maintain lanes throughout the job, and she said her questions were answered. Ultimately, she said, she believes this will end up being a positive for the area when complete.

Town Councilor Bob Shaw agreed, saying after a “learning curve” at other roundabouts in the state, drivers seem to eventually learn how they’re supposed to be used, and the devices overall are “great” additions.

Councilor Lisa Beaulieu said she’s heard from residents who are worried about the added impact of truck traffic on Angell Road if drivers seek to avoid future tolls on Route 295, and how that will mix with the roundabout project. David Walsh, community liaison on the project and a former Cumberland resident, said officials are able to monitor all new projects and have the ability to implement changes such as no through-trucking on Angell.

Walsh said one of his primary tasks is to make sure the concerns of residents are heard on a daily basis. Also of utmost importance is maintaining flow to existing businesses, he said.

Innocent said RIDOT representatives will stay “very involved” throughout the project, sending out frequent updates on what’s happening. Residents will first see extensive utility work, he said, including moving telephone poles outward to widen the roads and then moving natural gas and water pipes.

The overarching goal of this entire project is to improve traffic flow and reduce traffic problems, he said.

Answering residents who asked about rules for the roundabouts, and whether they’ll be followed, RIDOT officials said they’re contemplating a wider campaign to publicize rules for the circular traffic devices as they’re implemented more regularly across the state.

The rules for a roundabout give drivers already in the circle the right of way. Anyone taking a right onto the highway or going straight down Diamond Hill Road will be required to stay in the right lane of two roundabout lanes, said representatives Monday, while anyone going around the roundabout will be required to travel the inside left lane.

Murray on Monday clarified that an earlier significant traffic backup in the area of Route 295 on Monday was not due to construction starting on the roundabouts, but to a “miscommunication” with the contractor working on a water line replacement farther up on Diamond Hill Road.

The contractor crossed the road with work despite being asked not to, creating the lengthy traffic jam, he said.

Comments

Once a steady stream of traffic is moving through a round about, it is impossible to enter it... Alviti seems to have a fondness for these things, these are popping up all over the state. The results of this project are all dependent on the traffic study. If free flowing traffic isn't congesting the round abouts, they will work well. If there is too much traffic you will have the same things that happen at the Bourne and Sandwich Bridges in the summer time.

I have always felt the worst thing is that you are trying to take a left off the highway obstructed by the hill made by the over pass... just add a couple new ramps.. 22A and 22B.. done and done.. No stupid circles.

The traffic studies by the developers building on every square inch possible got us into this mess. Guess they were off by a few thousand cars . Sad but round about and a lot of patients is the best option at this point,

People using the road make mistakes (like running stop signs and red lights), always have and always will. Crashes will always be with us, but they need not result in fatalities or serious injury.

Modern roundabouts are the safest form of intersection in the world - the intersection type with the lowest risk of fatal or serious injury crashes - (much more so than comparable signals). Modern roundabouts require a change in speed and alter the geometry of one of the most dangerous parts of the system - intersections. The reduction in speed and sideswipe geometry mean that, when a crash does happen at a modern roundabout, you usually need a tow truck, not an ambulance. Visit the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety for modern roundabout FAQs and safety facts. Roundabouts are one of several proven road safety features (FHWA).
The life saved may be your own.

Single-lane modern roundabouts (50-120 feet in diameter) can handle intersections that serve up to 20,000 vehicles per day with peak-hour flows between 2,000 and 2,500 vehicles per hour. Two- and three-lane modern roundabouts (150-220 feet in diameter) can serve up to 60,000 vehicles per day and handle 2,500 to 5,500 vehicles per hour. Right-turn slip lanes can increase those numbers if needed (just like for signal intersections). Much depends on how balanced the entries are, but only in determining how many lanes are needed for each movement – just like at a signal controlled intersection.

Roundabouts are great for left turn conflicts.
There plenty of on-line videos of roundabouts in action. They dramatically change how traffic interacts, and the platoons of cars found with signals are greatly reduced.

One thing missing from this article is the timeline. The roundabouts will not be completed for about 2.5 years.

@SanHolo...attempting to compare the traffic and volume of cars getting off from 295 N/S at Diamond Hill to traffic at the Bourne & Sandwich, MA bridges in the summer time is laughable. Those roundabouts work as designed...to keep traffic moving, safely. Yes, traffic is backed up simply due to the amount of cars...not because of the roundabouts themselves. Additionally, they are not impossible to enter. The pedal on the right tends to help entering them...

Breezedog, that would be in paragraph 7