Town Council requests DOT study of Sayles Hill Road

Town Council requests DOT study of Sayles Hill Road

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Plans on the table to widen the intersection of Route 146 and Sayles Hill Road don’t do enough to resolve a growing issue with traffic according to town officials, who voted unanimously this month to ask the Department of Transportation to study the issue.

The resolution, sponsored by Councilor Daniel Halloran, notes that the intersection “creates a serious danger to the health, safety, and welfare of the residents of the town of North Smithfield.”

Halloran said he hopes North Smithfield can garner support for an expedited long-term solution from surrounding communities.

“This affects the whole state the way that thing is running,” he said.

DOT officials announced in August plans to implement a moderate cost approach to increase the intersection’s capacity by installing additional lanes to ease up congestion. “Auxiliary through lanes” along Route 146 at Sayles Hill Road are expected to be built beginning around 400 feet before vehicles reach the intersection on either side.

The $2.6 million state project is expected to go out to bid in 2017, with work to begin in spring of 2018 and be completed by the end of that year.

But Town Administrator Gary Ezovski said that the project will not adequately address the ongoing problem.

“We know that there is a plan that is going forward,” Ezovski said. “That’s OK, but it can’t be the long-term solution.”

North Smithfield Police Chief Steven Reynolds told The Breeze earlier this year that the highway crossing is “one of the most dangerous intersections in the state,” saying that in the past five years, his department has investigated 99 accidents in the area, which resulted in 24 injuries, and one pedestrian fatality.

Resident Joseph Cardello noted that he was among those who designed plans in the 1980s aiming to address the traffic issue. That solution would have included a bridge with a “diamond interchange,” according to Cardello, and back then, would have cost around $3 million.

It was shot down, he said, by the prior town administrator and then Town Council because of the harm it would have caused to area businesses. Surrounding the traffic light where the state highway crosses the town roadway today are Anchor Subaru, a Sunoco gas station and Mongeon’s Auto.

“Obviously that solution’s not going to fly anymore, or if it does, there’s significant economic impact,” said Cardello.

Alternatives like digging out highway lanes below Sayles Hill Road so traffic can go under it, meanwhile, could come with a price tag of up to $200 million.

“It’s all ledge,” Cardello said.

“If we put something to the state and ask them to do something, it’s going to get a little muddy. Somebody is going to lose something,” said Cardello. “You’re trying to put six pounds in a four pound bag.”

Councilor Thomas McGee pointed out that the town has been waiting for years for DOT to make improvements to the Stone Arch Bridge in Slatersville. Reconstruction of the bridge is currently slated to begin this spring, according to recent statements by DOT officials.

“I’m not even thinking of 146. They can’t even handle a bridge,” McGee said.

“I’m opposed to doing anything at that intersection because I’m afraid of what will happen to businesses there,” McGee added.

But Ezovski noted that even under the best of circumstances, a real solution will take years to implement.

“Doing nothing is not an option. Traffic continues to build,” said the administrator. “We’ll have traffic up to Pound Hill Road of people trying to get to work in the morning. It’s not going to go away.”

Cardello agreed.

“It’s going to take a long time,” he said.

“One of the options is no build, the other is destroy every business. Those two options are not going to fly, but we’ll find something,” said Cardello. “We’ll find some solution that’s viable.”

The resolution requests that DOT “conduct a comprehensive study and provide recommendations and a course of action for Sayles Hill Road regarding all issues pertaining to the condition of the roadway, traffic flow, traffic safety measures, and traffic calming measures.”

A copy has been forwarded to DOT officials.

Comments

How many people have to die or become injured at that intersection before we actually do something. I have witnessed vehicles stopping with a green light to make sure it's safe be before crossing 146.

Ridiculous. All they have to do is restrict turns during peak periods. Plenty of examples across the country where there are gates that come down across the intersection, and only allow right turns by traffic. There are U-Turns less than a 1/4 mile in each direction that residents could use during peak traffic periods when turns are restricted. It's a limited inconvenience to local residents, that would greatly improve and reduce traffic, at little cost to taxpayers.

There is no easy solution or possibly no solution at all. North Smithfield and the surrounding areas have outgrown 146. It was clearly designed during a time when the road was less travelled. The on-ramps are dangerous. There is simply nowhere to go. Now we have households that have 3,4 cars each; communities that are built up and 146 cannot keep up. I don't think it matters what DOT does. There is simply nowhere to build out and nothing to improve.

One possible answer to this difficult problem may lie in the town of Sutton, just ten miles north on 146.

Unfortunately it does represent a taking of some of the businesses in the area, but it may be an evil necessary.

Tough intersection, no way around it. The most dangerous intersection in the state, if I recall.

Timb has a great idea.Local residents already have alternate routes on both sides of 146.