A public hearing on the preliminary designs for a roundabout on Route 8 at the problematic Friend Street intersection drew about 20 people to the Adams Visitors Center.
ADAMS, Mass. — Abutters around the proposed roundabout planned for Friend, Columbia and Renfrew streets weighed in at a public hearing on the project on Tuesday night.
About 20 people, many of them local officials, attended the state Department of Transportation hearing at the Adams Visitors Center to see the initial design. Those attending expressed some concern over elements of the project but appeared satisfied with the communications with the state.
"It's going to be your roundabout so we're going to make it the way you like it," said Tom Currier, supervising project manager at MassDOT, adding the caveat what they wanted would have to be within reason. "It's a great opportunity to make a nice entry to the town."
The $1.4 million project was endangered last year when a $650,000 federal earmark for engineering was diverted to the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority. The state promised upset county planners and town officials they'd find the money to at least complete the design, considered an integral part of the development of the Greylock Glen.
On Monday, Matthew J. Chase of Vanasse Hangen Brustlin unveiled the 25 percent completed design for the 120-foot diameter roundabout. Its placement will require shifting the intersection's four corners to accommodate the 18-foot lane with 2-foot shoulders.
Larger vehicles will be able to travel on the roundabout's apron and the two "spitter" islands separating lanes on Friend and Renfrew streets. The construction will also narrow Renfrew Street and eliminate one of the entrances into 7-11 off Route 8. About 750 feet along the state highway will be affected.
The funding split can range from 80-20 to 90-10, depending on the grant mechanism and whether the state or federal government is paying the bulk. The expectation is that project will be covered 100 percent, with the town not being required pitch in. It will, however, be charged with maintaining the roundabout, its landscaping and the culvert system under it
"Roundabouts, they work more efficiently than signals do. It works, it's very safe," Currier said. While rotaries have vehicles entering at a sustained speed, roundabouts force cars to slow down and yield before entering. A light would be more likely to have accidents as traffic was forced to stop and would back up traffic going north.
"If you run a signal, there's a chance for an accident," he said. "The accident rate frequently drops through the floor with roundabouts. Signals cost about the same but you have to maintain them and they break."
John Burke of Burke Construction and Daniel Maloney of McAndrews-King dealership were concerned about the relocation of utility poles and wires, the large decorative retaining wall on Burke's property, grading and the sidewalk along McAndrews-King.
Currier said Chase and MassDOT officials had reviewed where some of the poles would have to be moved. Their relocation was dependent on several factors, including the weight of the wires and the need for guy wire support.
"We can't put them wherever we want," he said. "There's a lot of force that's generated over those wires. If you pull one out of line ... ."
There were options, such as using stiffer poles with more substantial foundations or allowing the lines to sag, reducing the amount of force on the poles. To questions about putting the lines underground, Currier said the state will pay half of the cost of moving the poles (if on schedule) but state funds can't pay for the "betterment" of private property — either the utility's or the abutters.
Case said the pole locations and other details will be more defined after the completion of the 75 percent phase of design.
Maloney said the dealership had been on the corner for 39 years and was aware of how dangerous it could be, especially for customers and employees trying to enter and leave.
"They've tried to make some improvements over the years but it's been worse," he said. "This probably is the best solution and there was a lot of issues they moved around. It looks like they've come up with a fair compromise all the way round. ... Some kind of reasonable compromise that works for us all."
He said his main concern at this point was ensuring that the curbs and sidewalks would facilitate snowplowing around the dealership's parking lot. Piled snow on the Friend Street side was a potential hazard because it limited visibility, said Maloney.
Burke also asked to be involved in landscaping. Currier and Chase said those requests would be taken into account.
Selectman Michael Ouellette asked if the owners of 7-11 were also in the loop since no one from the convenience store was there. Currier said they, like the other abutters, have been met with and kept abreast of developments.
"They've met with us on several occasions, listened to our concerns, came back with some modification of plans," said attorney Stephen Pagnotta, representing McAndrews-King. "We don't often hear often enough to say thanks to the people who work hard on these projects."
Town Administrator Jonathan Butler said the town had done its "due diligence" on the roundabout, meeting with safety officials and abutters. "The end result improves the situation for everybody," he said, thanking MassDOT for working with them. "It's important we come up with a compromise that works for all of them."
The project will now enter the 75 percent design stage and get in the queue for funding on the local Metropolitan Planning Committee. Currier said if funding was in place, the project could be to bid in nine to 12 months. As it stands now, the date is closer to 2017.
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