Residents, region at odds over Wellesley intersection

Safety concerns surrounding a dangerous St. Clements intersection are best remedied with an all-way stop, says the region’s transportation department. However, residents aren’t happy with the compromise, strongly pushing for a roundabout as the most effective option to prevent future fatal collisions at Herrgott Road and Ament Line.

Addressing Wellesley councillors Tuesday night, they dismissed arguments made by Steve van De Keere, the region’s director of transportation, who advocated a four-way stop as the quickest and simplest way to improve the intersection.

“The region has had lots of success implementing four-way stops at rural intersections,” he said, adding the recommendation would be brought to regional council on Dec. 6. “We are going to propose the all-way stop pilot project to be implemented (in spring 2017) as early as we can and reviewed over five years. My responsibility to regional council is to recommend that they get the best bang for their safety buck.”

An all-way stop would cost the region $3,000 versus $750,000 for a roundabout that couldn’t be built until 2019 at the earliest.

If regional council goes for the four-way stop plan, new signs would be installed north- and southbound on Herrgott Road, along with a red flashing light in all directions.

A roundabout would involve more steps, including the acquisition of land and the relocation of utilities.

For some 30 residents in council chambers, however, the safety concerns trump the financial ones.

Pam Ringrose, who lost her daughter Emma in a collision at the intersection in 2005, pushed for the roundabout as a solution to the problem there.

“Obviously, the rumble strips and the signs aren’t enough. The all-way stop isn’t going to help either,” she said. “It sickens me to know our efforts have been in vain. Collisions continue to occur and another life has been lost. I don’t want to see any more of our money wasted on band-aid solutions. A roundabout is what is needed to save lives. The research has been done. To ignore that fact is putting people’s lives at risk,” she said, referencing a fatal collision last November.

Van De Keere defended the four-way stop, noting roundabouts reduce the severity of collisions while increasing the number of incidents.

“When we look at a roundabout, we compare the roundabout to alternative traffic measures. We also looked at traffic control signals,” he said. “I know that reducing injuries at this location is first and foremost in our minds. If we did nothing, we would expect 13 injury collisions. At an all-way stop, we would expect four, at the roundabout we would expect eight.”

That wasn’t enough to sway the room.

“We want zero deaths. We don’t want to settle for a light that is going to cost $3,000 and have some more deaths and accidents,” said township resident Linda Lawrence. “Shouldn’t it be done right the first time? Wouldn’t that make more sense?”

There are 13 roundabouts planned including seven more on Franklin Boulevard in Cambridge alone, among plenty of other large-scale construction projects in the region. Residents and councillors wanted to know: why not Wellesley?

“On a daily basis, I am in the township and somebody is coming up to me saying, ‘they are spending tons of money in the city.’ All the money that is being spent on the LRT, the massive amount of money being spent in Cambridge, and people are asking me why we can’t find the money to make our roads safer. This is the perception, whether it is real or not. I am having a hard time giving people answers on that, and I’ll leave that with you,” said Mayor Joe Nowak. “I guess we’ll discuss it again at regional council.”

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