RIDOT: Roundabout project won’t shut down Diamond Hill Road

RIDOT: Roundabout project won’t shut down Diamond Hill Road

The latest rendering from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation shows the reconfiguration plan at Chapel Four Corners. CVS is pictured bottom center.

CUMBERLAND – Rhode Island Department of Transportation officials say they’re serious about making the upcoming reconfiguration of Chapel Four Corners and installation of two new roundabouts on Diamond Hill Road as painless as possible for local business owners and residents.

During a forum April 11 near the planned project, at Okonite Company on Industrial Road, RIDOT officials pledged to keep traffic flowing along Diamond Hill Road throughout the project, though they said there will be a few cases where the off-ramp from Route 295 will have to be shut down at night. Those detours will be put in place no more than 10 times, they said, and happen after 10 p.m.

They emphasized that all three phases of this $6.6 million project – the Chapel improvements and then construction of two roundabouts – should be seen as one cohesive plan to improve traffic flow in the area and enhance safety. Though some might think that traffic will still get backed up at Chapel, enhancements to move more vehicles through that intersection, keeping traffic “moving at all times,” will make the whole configuration work, they said.

Business owners expressed concerns on truck traffic, accessibility, and inconvenience from work being done in front of their properties.

The visit to Okonite was the first of many business outreach events RIDOT has planned across the state to keep business owners informed and to hear their concerns about “an aggressive slate” of state projects over the next decade.

RIDOT’s David Walsh, acting as the communications person on the project, said the agency will soon follow up on the meeting with business owners by scheduling one with residents who will be impacted by the project, sometime in May. He said the project is expected to begin this summer, and be completed by late summer or early fall of 2020.

Much of the early work will be utility upgrades and widening of the roadway. Utilities are part of the project because officials don’t want to come back in a year or two to tear up the road, said RIDOT representatives.

“Once it’s done, it’s done,” said Robens Innocent, a project manager on the job.

Innocent said the upgrades to Chapel Four Corners will be relatively simple, while the roundabout project will have “a life of its own.”

He said RIDOT will always maintain access from one end of the Diamond Hill project to the other, and he acknowledged that many businesses are depending on vehicles getting through.

Innocent explained how a longer turn lane on Diamond Hill Road heading toward Chapel from the Route 295 exit will allow more vehicles to stack up without blocking the right lane. The light will also be reprogrammed, allowing more cars to get through.

By moving the sidewalk in front of CVS closer to the store, and taking some of the curbing from the Shell gas station across the street, there will be more space for cars heading up Bear Hill Road to take a right on Diamond Hill Road, said Innocent, helping traffic move more smoothly. The same will be true on Angell Road heading toward Chapel, with a longer turn lane added.

Once utilities are installed and telephone poles moved outward, grading and shifting of traffic patterns will begin. The Chapel reconfiguration will happen first, then the roundabouts. Much of the early work will be widening the roads.

Old Diamond Hill Road will be closed off as part of the project, creating a cul-de-sac for Home Avenue with access from Broadview Avenue.

All business owners and residents will be notified on a regular basis about lane closures, said Robens and fellow project manager Steve Soderlund. They said their goal is to make this process as smooth as possible, and encouraged all stakeholders to be in regular communication with RIDOT’s Walsh when they have a question. The goal through the entire project is to maintain access to local businesses, they said.

Soderlund said data about traffic congestion and accidents led to the plan for installation of two roundabouts at the Diamond Hill exit points from Route 295. Anyone who believes that traffic will still back up at Chapel needs to “look at the whole picture” of the improvements that will be made there, he said. Easier flow will come with all three components of the project working together.

The light gray circles pictured in the aerial renderings of the roundabouts show 18-inch-thick stamped concrete, designed to be driven over by a tractor-trailer, said Soderlund. The concrete sections address concerns about whether trucks and emergency vehicles will be able to get through, he said. Having the concrete 3 inches above the pavement also discourages cars from driving on it.

“We don’t want people to just go up over the concrete to defeat the purpose of the roundabout,” he said.

As with just about every RIDOT project now, drainage and stormwater improvements will be completed, said the managers.

Mayor Bill Murray said this is the most significant road project the town has seen in a long time. He said it will be messy, but town officials will do “everything in our power to keep the mess down” and to keep residents and business owners updated on what’s going on.

“When it’s all said and done, it’s going to help us,” he said. The traffic conditions currently are “really a problem, and it’s getting worse,” he said.

Cumberland State Rep. Jim McLaughlin said he and other elected officials will be the “boots on the ground” to hear concerns and make sure RIDOT is as accommodating as possible.

The roundabout for cars coming off Route 295 north, top, and getting on 295 north, bottom.
The planned roundabout on the north side of Route 295 in Cumberland.