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Residents, Weston Traffic Committee Discuss Case's Corner Roundabout at Public Hearing

Debate ensues: traffic-flow necessity or aesthetic mistake?

Whether to build a roundabout at Case’s Corner is cause for debate among residents, with Weston's Traffic and Sidewalk Committee (TSC) emphasizing the necessity of the build for public safety and others saying the aesthetic changes that would result from such a project would sacrifice the rural and pristine nature of that area of town.

At a public hearing Wednesday at Case House, engineers presented plans for the project, which was identified by TSC as a major priority in town in terms of managing traffic flow and improving safety.

Tim McIntosh and Erin Thompson of Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB), Inc. told a room of some 30 residents, including TSC members, other town officials and Weston Police Chief Steven Shaw, that the primary concerns of the current flow of traffic at Wellesley and Newton streets include a morning peak backup of up to 1,600 feet—some 60 cars—for cars traveling north on Wellesley Street and awaiting a left turn onto School Street.

Currently such traffic is frequently managed by Weston police officers, a scenario the TSC called “inefficient and expensive.”

Of the scenarios studied to remedy the situation, redesigning the intersection into a roundabout is "the best operational option,” said Thompson. “Projected queues will be no longer than 10 cars (in length).”

Some details of the project, estimated to cost $625,000, include relocating the current pedestrian crosswalk, doing a “full-depth” pavement reconstruction along both sides of Wellesley Street, moving the abutting Land’s Sake driveway, and a building 10-foot truck apron to accommodate larger trucks trying to maneuver through the intersection.

But some residents objected to the prospect, saying both the build itself and materials to be used—particularly asphalt—would drastically alter the character of the town.

“To me, to consider changing the character of the town is the heart of the issue,” said Laura Sher. “I’m stunned that (some audience members) support this. (The roundabout) will destroy the charming, old-world feel of the town.”

What’s more, said Sher, “We’re talking about building a roundabout that facilitates tractor-trailers. It (could) start to feel like a thoroughfare.”

“The fact is, it’s not very rural to have 1,600 feet of car back-up,” replied TSC member John DeTore. “As it is the traffic in this town is problematic and everything we’re trying to do is to (improve) that.”

Other concerns posed by residents included that of Sarah Jensen, who said the proposed relocation of the crosswalk merits a blinking light to ensure children’s safety, as well as several residents who said the proposed signage around the roundabout area also compromises aesthetics.

“On (the diagram), the signage does look extreme,” said McIntosh. “But on the actual roadway, it won’t look that different” from current signage.

In terms of a blinking light, he said, “The (proposed) sidewalk is actually safer than the current one,” with DeTore adding that, “it is not an appropriate place to install lights.”

If approved by voters at Town Meeting in May, construction of the roundabout could begin next June, with a projected four- to six-month build time to be done in phases, said McIntosh.

Ostensibly, he said, “Traffic in the area would be less” in the summer in terms of an optimal time to build the roundabout, but added that, “Unfortunately, construction will inconvenience the public to some extent.”

The meeting wrapped with TSC members urging residents to attend future TSC meetings to further voice their concerns.

ScottRAB January 13, 2012 at 06:26 PM
A roundabout would destroy the 'old world feeling'? Modern roundabouts can help preserve the rural feel of an intersection a lot better than a stop light. Modern roundabouts keep speeds in the intersection at around 20 mph, but eliminate most full stops. This seems more hospitable that high speed travel through the area.
John DeTore January 14, 2012 at 03:41 PM
A big thanks to Weston Patch for coming out and reporting on the meeting and doing a good job. I just wanted to clarify my comments quoted above: What I remember saying in the meeting, regarding the crosswalk at the roundabout, is that it is difficult to have a button that stops traffic, just because the only way to practically accomplish this is to put a stop light at every entrance to the roundabout and letting the circle clear before pedestrians can cross. We can have a regular crosswalk away from the roundabout, and here one could press a button and stop traffic. John DeTore, Weston Traffic and Sidewalk Committee
Elizabeth S. Leaver January 15, 2012 at 12:29 AM
Thank you, John, for providing additional context to your remarks; it can only help readers/residents with their understanding of this complex issue. It was clear at the meeting that this issue will continue to be one of some debate; I hope residents take the opportunity to attend TSC meetings to learn more and make the most informed voting decisions possible.

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