WILMINGTON, MA — At its most recent meeting, the Wilmington Board of Selectmen spoke with State Representative Dave Robertson about a possible lane reconfiguration at the Main Street/Clark Street intersection on Route 38.
“I’m here tonight to discuss your support of having the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) conduct a traffic study at the Clark and Main Street intersection,” began Robertson. “As you’re aware, Route 38 from Burlington Avenue up to the Wilmington/Woburn line is being redesigned. In the meantime, my intern Mary Nelson, myself and a few folks from around the community were discussing quick addresses to the Main Street corridor that could relieve traffic while we line up the next MassDOT project to fix Main Street.”
“We’re looking at mile marker 13 to 13.1 — the Dunkin Donuts by Wilmington House of Pizza up to Enterprise Rental Car,” continued Robertson. “As you drive south — taking a left out of Market Basket and driving towards the train station — as you approach Clark Street, the [straight] lanes collapse from two to one. After passing Dunkin’ and clearing the intersection, we go back to two lanes.”
“After speaking with Town Manager Jeff Hull and Town Engineer Paul Alunni, we were going to pen a letter to MassDOT to ask them to consider extending the two traffic lanes through that entire section of Route 38,” explained Robertson. “The idea is that when we travel south, the left turn-only lane at the Clark Street/Main Street intersection would become a left turn/straight lane.”
“The MassDOT study would be pretty run of the mill. According to Chief Desmond, there’s only been about 10 motor vehicle accidents there in 3 years, which is pretty low risk intersection,” concluded Robertson. “Let me know if you have any questions and if you’d like us to join us in supporting that letter.”
Town Manager Jeff Hull read some written remarks prepared by Town Engineer Paul Alunni, who recommended that a traffic study be conducted by MassDOT for the board to review to determine if any changes are warranted at this intersection.
“The purpose of the crosshatch lane reduction is to minimize driver frustration and confusion by merging through traffic into the apropriate lane in advance of the dedicated left-turn lane,” wrote Alunni. “The inclusion of lane reduction is based on engineering judgement based on careful evlauation of traffic, volume pattern, and safety.”
“I would agree it would definitely be appropriate for MassDOT to take a look at this,” added Hull. “It’s worth having them reevaluate this configuration.”
Selectmen appreciated Robertson’s efforts, but would like to see even more fixes to this portion of Route 38.
“I’m not opposed to a traffic study,” said Selectmen Chair Jonathan Eaton. “But of the four lights between Clark Street and Richmond Street, this is probably the third biggest problem, behind the Richmond Street one where accidents are consistently high and the Savers intersection… I have no objection for a traffic study and to get MassDOT’s recommendation about what should get done there, but this is the third priority for me.”
“I’ve mentioned this 3 years ago, 2 years ago, and 1 year ago. Where Market Basket and Savers are — there’s a set of lights there. Driving towards Tewkbsury, the arrow doesn’t work. People are taking a risk in trying to take a left into the Savers parking lot,” said Selectman Kevin Caira. “That light has never seemed to work. You try to take a left there, and you look over the cars trying to take a left into Market Basket, and cars are zipping by. I’m surprised there’s not more accidents. For the life of me, I can’t understand those traffic signals can’t be fixed. I’m again going to ask for someone to look in it — the left signal light going into Savers. I’m not so concerned about the lane on Clark Street… That seems to be working fine now.”
“I’m happy to see this and Robertson looking into this more,” said Selectwoman Jomarie O’Mahony. “As a mother teaching two kids how to drive, this Route 38 stretch, along with Cambridge Street in Burlington, are my two biggest fears for my kids. On this stretch,I often see people on the right side crossing over the yellow crosshatch lines and veering back into the right.”
“I’d like to see if we could expand the study from Richmond to Clark. I do agree this is one of three in the area that have similar concerns. To address that one spot, it might instead make sense to look at all 3 intersections that are back to back to back to each other,” added O’Mahony.
“In terms of Clark Street, I’ll support a study,” said Selectman Gary DePalma. “It’s a very aggravating intersection gong from two lanes to one lane to two lanes. There’s always competition and someone decides they don’ want to take a left and speed ahead of you as you’re in the right lane. It’s a good idea that could resolve some congestion.”
Robertson noted that is focused on the Clark Street intersection first — instead of the Savers intersection or Richmond Street intersection — because the fix only requires some sandblasting and paint.
“If we tackled the [Richmond intersection], we’d need a lot more sizable construction and a bit more investment. Depending on the size and scope of the project, we were hoping to roll any improvements there into a future MassDOT project from Burlington Avenue to Route 129,” explained Robertson.
“We’re sending you home with some homework,” said Selectman Greg Bendel. “We appreciate any help you can give.”
“Happy to do it,” said Robertson.
Selectman Kevin Caira also brought up the lights on Wildwood Street and Middlesex Avenue, next to the Nichols Funeral Home.
“You stop at the light. You let two cars out before it runs red again. Traffic is constantly backed up to the Willdwood Cemetery. We should try to get out more than two cars a time,” observed Caira.
Hull and Alunni noted that the traffic cycle is so short for drivers turning from Wildwood Avenue onto Middlesex Avenue because a longer cycle would negatively impact the traffic already on Middlesex Avenue.
“It’s a balancing act. We did take a second look at it last year. Every time we make an adjustment, there was a detrimental effect on Middlesex Avenue,” responded Alunni.
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