Rotary yield change gives way to motorist concerns

by Town Reminder

Rotary yield change gives way to motorist concerns
By Kristin Will
Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY – The state-funded rotary project totaling $2 million has resulted in a change of signage requiring motorists traveling off of the Mueller Bridge from Holyoke into South Hadley to yield to those in the rotary.
Previously, signs indicated those in the rotary needed to yield to bridge traffic, despite Massachusetts’ General Law Chapter 89 section 8 indicating otherwise. South Hadley Police Chief David LaBrie and Lt. Steven Parentela both said they did not know why the rotary had been signed improperly, but said it had been that way for many, many years.
The Massachusetts General Law regarding rotaries states, “Any operator of a vehicle entering a rotary intersection shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle already in the intersection.”
Now, following the completion of the project in June, two large, digital traffic signs stationed at the end of the Muller Bridge and beginning of the rotary advertise the need to yield to oncoming rotary traffic.
“It conforms now to really the state law, which is when you’re on the rotary, you have the right of way,” said Department of Public Works Superintendent James Reidy said. The illuminated yield signs “drive that point home,” he said.
The rotary was also repaved and striped to reflect it being two lanes. Parentela suspects these indicators will reduce the number of accidents in which a motorist in the left lane attempts to exit the rotary by crossing into the right lane of traffic in front of a second vehicle.
LaBrie said he voiced his concerns regarding this type of accident to traffic engineers who conducted an extensive study of the road at the project’s inception. The engineers suggested the striping, as well as the updated signage, to improve traffic flow. Whether a reduction in this type of accident occurs “remains to be seen,” said LaBrie.
Residents have contacted the police department, said LaBrie, concerned the striping will actually cause more accidents. These concerns were forwarded to Bao Lang, the engineer overseeing the project, who then responded to each resident.
“I think it has caused a little bit of consternation with the motorists,” said Reidy, “but I’m certain that once people get used to the way things are now, it will clear a lot of that up.”
Purple Heart Drive was paved in addition to the rotary up to Douglas Avenue. Lumped into this state-funded project was the repaving of Morgan Street, which accounted for the $2 million total.
Within the next year, a second phase of resurfacing will occur, also funded by the state using funds provided by the Transportation Improvement Program. In this project, the Purple Heart Drive paving will be extended up Route 202 to the intersection with Route 33, said Reidy.
A road monitoring program conducted by the state identified the need for the rotary to be repaved and its signage changed. “The state is in control of state roads,” said Reidy. “And they decide what work has to be done.”
Residential roadwork
Five residential road projects are in the works for the remainder of the year and possibly into the next.
Currently, Palmer Paving is in the midst of resurfacing Canal and High streets in South Hadley Falls. These two streets will also receive new sidewalks.
Construction of the remaining four projects is slated to occur in late fall, said Reidy. Or, he said, the town may wait until the following year.
The road of West Summit Street from Canal and Bardwell streets will be resurfaced. A new sidewalk will be installed.
The Sycamore Knolls neighborhood including South Sycamore Street, North Sycamore Street and Sycamore Parc, will be resurfaced.
New sidewalks will be installed on the North side of Taylor Street. Reidy said the town is hoping to apply for and receive a Community Development Block Grant to pay for potential roadwork to Taylor Street.
Finally, the small stretch of Brainerd Street from Lyman to Lathrop streets not included in the previous Brainderd Street roadwork will be resurfaced.
Reidy said the Department of Public Works will go out to bid in the next month or two for companies to conduct these projects. Chapter 90 funds from the state will be used to pay for the projects. Each year, cities and towns receive a certain allotment from Chapter 90. South Hadley received $511,000 this fiscal year to perform these necessary roadwork projects.
All of these roads will remain open during construction, said Reidy. And although there will not be any detours set up, residents should expect delays. “Their understanding is greatly appreciated,” said Reidy. “These will be great improvements.”