Town moving forward with Mowry Road intersection changes

Town moving forward with Mowry Road intersection changes

Signs placed by property owner Jason Richer warn drivers to slow down at the intersection of Mowry Road and Route 7. Town officials are hoping a plan to narrow the opening of Mowry Road and widen the road farther on will ease ongoing traffic issues at the intersection. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)

NORTH SMITHFIELD – A solution to a long and contentious traffic problem on Mowry Road is finally moving forward, and town officials hope the coming changes will ease travel and create safer conditions on the road for all involved.

The main change, according to Town Administrator Gary Ezovski, involves narrowing the entryway to Mowry Road from Route 7 so the intersection conforms more closely to a standard 90-degree intersection rather than the current “Y formation” resembling a highway exit, a configuration that invites speeding, he said. After the initial opening, town officials plan to widen the first 100 feet of the road leading into Burrillville by about three feet to allow two-way traffic to pass easier on the currently 16-foot-wide road.

“Traffic entering from Route 7 north coming from the right and turning onto Mowry Road will have to slow down, because that is part of the problem that makes Mowry Road a less than ideal travel circumstance,” he told The Breeze. “People come into this narrow street off of the state highway at 40 miles an hour and when they find another vehicle coming the other direction, they have to swerve one way or another. The road configuration doesn’t encourage the right behavior for the circumstance.”

Town councilors voted to approve the recommended changes in March after Ezovski presented the proposal based on an analysis prepared by McMahon Transportation Engineers and Planners. Since then, said Ezovski, the town has fine-tuned the plan and is currently awaiting final approval from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation after submitting an application for a physical alteration permit.

“I don’t expect it’s going to take much longer. I do hope to be able to get the work done in this construction season,” he said.

The intersection has been a source of contention among neighbors since at least 2013, when homeowner Jason Richer first began lobbying town and state officials to address excessive speeding on the road. Over the years, Richer has placed barrels, metal bars and security cameras at the edge of his property in an attempt to deter speeding and currently operates a YouTube channel where he posts videos of cars traveling by at high speeds or riding up onto the landscaping at the side of the road, including license plate numbers.

Other residents, meanwhile, have responded angrily to Richer’s methods, which they say have damaged their vehicles and worsened the already tense traffic situation. Video on Richer’s YouTube page shows passing drivers snatching American flags from the tops of the metal poles and throwing trash in his driveway. He also told The Breeze he is often awakened by passing vehicles blaring their horns, tactics he considers physical attacks since he was diagnosed with a neurological disorder triggered by stress.

“My plan at this point now is to identify these people and press charges,” he said. “I have no reason to believe they’re not going to follow suit again.”

One of the points of disagreement, at least, appears to be resolved for the time being. Several years ago, a land surveyor told Richer his land actually includes about 25 feet of paved roadway, a conclusion that’s led to disputes with various town officials and police. Ezovski acknowledged Richer’s claim and said the town was in talks to formally acquire a part of the property that extends out into the roadway.

“We’ve had discussions with the owner of the property at the intersection and we’re pursuing an acquisition of a small piece of land,” he said.

Richer said he is willing to donate the land that currently includes a portion of paved roadway on the north side of Mowry Road assuming the plan to narrow the intersection on the south side moves forward and he is given assurances that a well on his property will be protected. In the meantime, he plans to continue monitoring his surveillance cameras for evidence of large vehicles violating a five-ton weight limit, another change approved by the council last spring.

Ezovski said police will continue to monitor truck traffic on the road and noted signs alerting vehicles of the restriction have been placed at both the North Smithfield and Burrillville ends of Mowry Road. The Burrillville Town Council and town administrator, he said, have been informed of North Smithfield’s plans regarding the intersection.

Comments

While Mr. Richer is accusing people of blaring their horns and causing health issues, he has failed to mention chasing passing motorists with an air horn and harassing other residents around him by making false reports to the police. Having been a lifelong town resident and traveling Mowry Rd frequently, the road has continually gotten more narrow since Mr. Richer has moved in. The flags and poles he has placed in his yard are causing distractions and it is very difficult to navigate between these poles and oncoming traffic. He has also been seen standing in the middle of Route 7 to check him mail, where I personally had to slow down and drive into the other lane to avoid hitting him, while also avoiding oncoming traffic. North Smithfield wants to solve this issue but will NOT reprimand Mr. Richer for anything, stating it is his right. However, what about the safety and the rights of others in Burrillville and North Smithfield???

It is a shame that the town has had to spend money, time, and resources working on a solution for a problem created and exacerbated by Mr. Richer. Those resources could have been spent on actual issues within the town rather than a fake issue.

In addition, it is disappointing to see that Mr. Richer is using terms such as "moron" and "idiot" to describe his neighbors on his youtube account mentioned in this article. It reflects his moral character.