DARTMOUTH — For the record, the utility work at the corner of Old Westport Road and Chase Road on Friday morning was not the early start of the state’s planned installation of traffic lights at the busy intersection. The crews were updating the natural gas network in the neighborhood, an unrelated coincidence.
But the slight detour past the closed portion of Old Westport Road, up the wrong side of the two-way intersection with Chase Road, will serve as a sneak preview of the temporary disruption to be expected after the state Dept. of Transportation (MassDOT) traffic light installation gets underway this winter.
On weekday mornings and afternoons, the corner just south of Route 6 helps shuffle thousands of cars coming off the interstate and down Faunce Corner Road and up Old Westport Road to get to their work or studies at UMass Dartmouth. Too many of those cars go too fast, and the busy intersection has been the site of numerous accidents.
One Dartmouth selectman offered the idea that stop signs at each of the three corners on the curvy intersection was a sure way to slow traffic down in all directions, and reduce the number of crashes. For MassDOT, the long-considered solution to the problem somehow became the installation of a new set of traffic lights on the busy commuter road.
“Some time ago, I suggested maybe three-way stop signs there. A very simple idea... and it somehow morphed into this huge project,” Chairman of Selectmen Shawn McDonald said after MassDOT issued public notice that the construction work on new signals and other “intersection improvements” could start on Monday, Dec. 3.
“DOT’s first suggestion was to put in a roundabout,” McDonald noted. “When that was rejected, then it became a plan for traffic lights.”
The original idea “might have cost a couple of hundred bucks for the stop signs, and a few hundred bucks in man-hours to install them and paint the stop lines, and it would have been done,” he theorized.
Instead, the town is getting a full set of traffic lights on a main commuter road... and more traffic delays along the busy transportation corridor that has been under construction somewhere for years, said the frustrated elected official.
For the record, the MassDOT notice (also posted on the town website) indicates that contracted P.A. Landers Inc. crews might be working at the Old Westport and Chase Road intersection from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, weather permitting, over the next few months.
Detours and extra signage will be set up when work is in progress; some delays should be expected. Police officers will be posted to aid traffic along the one-way route to the college that will be maintained throughout the construction work.
MassDOT lists Aug. 24, 2019 as the expected completion date for the project.