Significant Traffic Improvements Coming To 2-Mile Stretch Of Route 38… Eventually

WILMINGTON, MA — At last week’s Board of Selectmen Meeting, Wilmington DPW Michael Woods and engineers from Green International provided an update on proposed improvements to the town’s Route 38 corridor.

The improvements would begin at the intersection of Route 38 and 62, and continue all the way south two miles to the Wilmington/Woburn town line.

The project planners are very close to submitting its 25% design phase to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). Before submitting, however, the planners wanted feedback from the Selectmen and the public.

“Anyone listening to this presentation can call my office at 978-658-4481 to offer their thoughts,” said DPW Director Mike Woods.

Green International engineers began the project in September. Traffic data collection was undertaken in October. A road safety audit was conducted in January.  A horizontal and vertical layout of the roadway was completed soon thereafter, along with other various 25% design elements. Green International met with Town Officials in March and MassDOT official in May. Pavement coring took place in June.

The project has several goals, including:

  • Improve overall safety and traffic operations
  • Replace or add new sidewalk connections (e.g., Yentile Farm to Town Dog Park) to address lack of continuous pedestrian facilities
  • Fix wide driveway openings and poorly defined roadway
  • Make drainage improvements
  • Make water and sewer main improvements
  • Improve aesthetics along the roadway (e.g., railroad adjacent to the Route 38/62 intersection)

The two-mile stretch of Route 38 under consideration for improvements has 12,500 to 21,000 vehicles travel it daily.  The peak traffic periods are 7:15am to 8:15m and 5pm to 6pm. There are two existing traffic signals — at the Route 38/62 intersection and at the Route 38/129 intersection.  There are no turn-lanes along Route 38 except at signalized intersections.

A total of 139 crashes were reported between 2013 and 2015, slightly higher than the district average.  The majority of crashes were property damage only.  The predominant crash types were rear end and angles.  No fatalities were reported.

The project will be designed to (1) meet MassDOT funding requirements, (2) limit impacts to wetlands and abutters; and (3) make significant improvements to the roadway, sidewalks, utilities and landscaping. Throughout the entire 2-mile stretch of road, there will be 11-foot travel lanes and 5-foot shoulders.  There will also be a sidewalk on the east side of the road from Main Street to Cross Street and a sidewalk on the west side of the road from Triple Nickel Autobody to the Woburn line.

The engineers spent more than 30 minutes discussing improvements that will take place at four key intersections:

Route 38/Route 62: The intersection grade would remain an F because new lanes can’t be added due to buildings on the corner, the bridge, and the retaining wall and railroad tracks.  Several improvements would be realized, however.  A left turn pocket would be created southbound to make it easier to turn left.  2 receiving lanes northbound would make it easier to go straight in that direction. Some businesses at the intersection are using on-street parking, which is not allowed on a state highway.  The town would work with them to find another parking arrangement, freeing up more of the roadway for travel.  The traffic lighting signalization would be vastly improved. If no improvements are made, it was suggested that the average traffic delay at the intersection would be 200 seconds within 20 years.  If the proposal goes through, the delay would be knocked down to just 80 seconds. From an aesthetic stand point, the tracks would be screened by trees.

Route 38/Route 129: The intersection wouldn’t look a whole lot different. Lane configuration remains the same, with the left turn lane on Route 62 lengthened a bit and a 5-foot shoulder added throughout the area. The intersection grade would improve from a C to B in the morning, and remain a C at night.

Route 38/Cross Street/Butters Row: Butters Row would be significantly realigned and Cross Street would be slightly realigned so that Route 38, Cross Street, and Butters Row all line up at the intersection. Additionally, crosswalks and ADA compliant wheelchair ramps would be installed at the intersection. And a new sidewalk would connect Yentile Farm to the Town Dog Park and Aprile Field.  The intersection grade would improve from an F to a C.

Route 38/Old Main Street: Old Main Street would be significantly realigned so that it comes into Route 38 at a 90 angle.  The improvements would provide a more defined entrance to Old Main Street and make for a more defined intersection.  The intersection has a “pretty significant” crash history, attributed to the awkward intersection with a severe skew angle. The intersection does not currently have a grade.

Unspecified improvements would also be made so that turning in and out of Ames Street would become safer.

There would be one residential land taking (“just the width of a sidewalk”) and minimal business land takings.  The affected parties, and all of the project’s abutters, will be notified and have plenty of opportunity for input.

The Green International engineers outlined their next steps, which includes an upcoming meeting with MassDOT regarding the project’s impacts of the railroad’s right of way.  They will also soon finalize the 25% design to MassDOT, which is essential to receiving TIP (transportation improvement program) funding.  The TIP year will then be assigned by the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization and final design will be funded by MassDOT.

The engineers hope to incorporate the town’s feedback into its proposal in August, meet with MassDOT no later than September, and submit the 25% design to the state by December.  A 120-day review period by the MassDOT will take place and a design public hearing would then take place in Spring 2018.  Once approved at the 25% level, the engineers would complete plans at the 75% level, which could take 9-10 months.

The biggest determining factor in the timeline, however, is in what “TIP year” the project is assigned, and the engineers and Town have little control over that.

“There’s a lot of projects competing for the same money,” cautioned the engineers, when Selectman Chair Mike Champoux asked how many years until the project begins. “We can’t predict [the timeline] beyond the 75% design approval.”

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