After another disaster at roundabouts, Mutter calls for improvement

After another disaster at roundabouts, Mutter calls for improvement

Cars creep along Diamond Hill Road last Thursday after heavy rains on Wednesday and a partial gravel fix. (Breeze photos by Ethan Shorey)

CUMBERLAND – It wouldn’t take a great deal of effort for construction workers to make the area of the Diamond Hill roundabout project more conducive to driving, says Mayor Jeff Mutter.

The mayor said he reached out to the Rhode Island Department of Transportation last week after crews tore up a stretch of Diamond Hill near Chapel Four Corners, and prior to rainstorms on Wednesday, to alert them that the newly rough ride was “just going to get worse when it rains.”

There was a subsequent attempt by the state to smooth out the big bumps, he said, but it proved ineffective.

“In a perfect world we would have made sure that was a lot smoother before the rain,” he said.

The resulting mess had motorists complaining bitterly the rest of Wednesday and all day Thursday leading up to repaving finally happening Thursday night.

Asked if he’s been tempted during the ongoing roundabout project to send town crews in to address issues with the state project, such as the large bump at Route 295 that could easily be remedied with a little patching, Mutter said he hasn’t “formally thought of that” but said there have been a bunch of issues where he’s felt like he should just do it himself.

“If I could, I would,” he said. That particular section at the exit ramp is at the top of his list, he said, as he travels it at least twice each day.

“I don’t think it’s a big lift to make that a lot better,” he said. “We need to get that smoother, make everybody’s life a little more pleasant.”

Coming from small business himself, Mutter said he feels sorry for the store owners in the Chapel area, knowing that they’re “grinding it out every day.”

“It absolutely hurts businesses,” he said, when people choose to avoid an area because it’s in terrible shape. When a snow day or some other unusual circumstance happens, it’s known in business as a “zero day,” he said.

“You can’t have a string of bad days, that’s not how it works anymore,” he said.

This is obviously a construction zone, he said, but reasonable driving conditions should be maintained and there are times he feels the roadway could be left in better shape when night work concludes.

“It does matter how you leave things,” he said. “Making sure there are not a couple big holes goes a long way.”

Last week’s removal of asphalt, done as part of the effort to widen the road near Chapel, provided a similar situation to one nearly a year ago where RIDOT and its contractor Cardi Corp. tore up the area on the other side of Route 295, next to Industrial Drive, before a heavy snowstorm. That situation also required drivers to slow to a crawl as they navigated deep holes obscured by muddy water. The headline at the time was “Diamond Hill a mess after ill-timed grinding,” and Highway Supt. Frank Stowik said numerous cars sustained damage.

RIDOT spokesman Charles St. Martin was asked this week whether the agency will be reimbursing motorists for damage done last week, and responded with a link to a claims form. He didn’t comment further on the situation.

A RIDOT email response posted by Diamond Hill Community Association spokeswoman Jennifer Brousseau prior to the heavy rain last Wednesday, Aug. 28, said the agency would be taking a number of actions in response to the afternoon rain’s anticipated impact on the road, including:

• Monitoring the area throughout the afternoon and evening.

• Having construction crews on site to fill areas as needed.

• Having a two-person police detail on location.

• And having two construction flaggers on location.

The email to Brousseau stated at that point that RIDOT planned on repaving Thursday night. Gravel was placed down as a interim measure to fix holes, but the trip remained a tough one.

Mutter said residents have shown a great deal of patience overall with this project, which is bringing a pair of roundabouts to the end of each exit ramp at Route 295 and Diamond Hill as well as the realignment, the Chapel Four Corners intersection, and the addition of a second lane headed away from the highway and toward Chapel. A bit more effort on the part of RIDOT to make sure the road is “a little more passable” will mean a lot, he said. Town officials have been communicating daily with the state agency and will continue to advocate for drivers who use the road and the businesses that operate on it, he said.

Last Thursday night’s repaving brought back a smooth surface to Diamond Hill Road after days of drivers hitting big bumps.

Comments

Back when this was first proposed, there were many comments that all we needed were a series of traffic lights to handle the early day and evening traffic. Now, this huge and totally unnecessary project was forced on our town. I will not traverse Diamond Hill Road. Like so many other motorists, Abbott Run Valley Road via Bear Hill Road to Chapel has become the favorite route. I am sure the residents of those areas are not happy with this situation. And, I an only imagine the accidents when the roundabout is completed.

Forced on our town?

I believe the former mayor and town council voted on it.

I agree the roundabouts are going to be a complete mess. Especially when you have a red light and a long line of people going all the way to through the roundabout waiting to move through there.

Also why is no one complaining about the gap in the paving job from the water main work and the roundabout work just by the building that was taken down. It looks like the company that did the water main work stopped short and then Cardi never paved to where they did so now there is a bump. Can imagine what that will be like in the snow when the plows try to navigate that.

I know our previous mayor and council voted yes, but with great pressure from those in the House of Representatives and Senate who are supposed to have our best interests at heart. This was pushed through with the Governor, our reps and interested construction groups singing praises of how safety with a roundabout would enhance our traffic issues. Take a survey of those who have to travel the roundabout in Warwick. It is still a challenging situation for residents and strangers alike. I personally know people in Warwick who go out of their way to avoid the roundabout.

If you have trouble navigating a rotary, maybe it`s time to turn in the license.

I apologize for not being clearer on "avoiding roundabouts." In the interest of personal safety, avoiding the Warwick situation, it is usually during high rush hours when everyone is in a "rush" and not paying attention. Also dealing with those drivers who are new to the roundabout. Safety first; avoid any possible accidents of which there were and continue to have many at this location. Me thinks possibly xrilander is either a supporter of one of our reps or in the construction industry. A helpful suggestion as to how to deal with this new roundabout would have been very welcome rather than suggest I turn in my license.

and to those people taking Bear Hill Rd to Abbot Run Valley: Slow down! It's not a freeway, 20mph down Bear Hill and 25mph on Abbot Run Valley Rd. You're taking a detour to avoid Diamond Hill fine, it's probably not any quicker, just a bit smoother, but not a right to speed through other parts of town.

I, and probably many use the Bear Hill Rd/Abbott Run to avoid the bumps on Diamond Hill and the poorly marked road going north where it meets the bridge area. How anyone can speed on either--especially Bear Hill--is beyond me. I live on a back, narrow winding road (50 years) and it amazes me how fast cars will travel.