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Cohasset, Scituate

A drive to make Route 3A safer

Study bolsters case for improvements

Officials in Cohasset and Scituate say they will push for action on recommendations from a state report that found — to no one’s surprise — that a 3-mile stretch of Route 3A in the two towns is dangerous for motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

The suggestions range from lowering speed limits to building sidewalks, adding traffic lights, and redesigning intersections to improve safety for the 15,500 to nearly 22,000 vehicles using the road daily.

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“We don’t want to lose any momentum,” said Clark Brewer, vice chairman of the Cohasset Planning Board. “These studies have a shelf life that’s shorter than anyone imagines.”

The study by the Metropolitan Planning Organization in Boston documented frequent accidents — including two fatalities in five years — on the heavily traveled route between the MBTA commuter rail station in Cohasset and Henry Turner Bailey Road at the northern end of Scituate.

Altogether, there were 321 crashes between 2008 and 2012 on the state-owned road, the study said.

The intersection of Route 3A at Beechwood Street in Cohasset was particularly dangerous, with 10 or more crashes a year — about twice the average for all of Southeastern Massachusetts, the study said. About a quarter of the 57 accidents there caused personal injury and many were the result of cars trying to turn left onto the highway, the study said.

The study found that the crash rate for the stretch of Route 3A from Beechwood Street to Henry Turner Bailey Road in Scituate was “much higher than the state average.”

“It puts on paper what those of us who live in the area and drive [Route 3A] have known for a while,” said state Representative Garrett Bradley, a Democrat from Hingham whose district includes Scituate and Cohasset.

Bradley said he was able to put $1.4 million in the recent House transportation bond bill for the Route 3A corridor to “start developing the project.” The bill still needs approval from the Senate and governor, and any actual construction probably is years away, he said. “But this is how the process gets started,” he said.

Michael Verseckes, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, said the agency expects to incorporate some of the recommendations “into future projects such as maintenance work or resurfacing, but without a funding source identified, it is unlikely that all of them would make it into one single project. At this point, the findings identified in this report are conceptual and should be considered a baseline of goals that would make overall improvements to safety and traffic flow along this corridor.”

Brewer said there are more immediate things that can be done, though, to make Route 3A safer. Examples include lowering speed limits, adding signs, and re-striping the roadway to make traffic flow clearer at key intersections, he said.

The study recommends reducing the top speed limit on the road from 50 to 45 miles per hour to “make travel speeds more consistent, and smooth speed transitions, thus improving safety for all.”

Noting that nearly 20 accidents involved collisions with deer, the study also recommended installing “deer warning” signs along parts of the road abutting wooded areas and cutting back vegetation to improve sight lines.

“I’m excited about making some modest changes fairly quickly,” Brewer said. “Trying to make this stretch of roadway a little safer could make the commute a minute longer” but is worth it.

More involved changes recommended by the study include reducing the four-lane section of the road at the south Cohasset business district to three lanes, building shoulders throughout the corridor, and creating a center lane between King and Sohier streets in Cohasset.

The report also recommends rebuilding the Pond Street and Beechwood Street intersections and adding traffic lights at intersections where there now are none.

The report also notes there are no sidewalks on Route 3A and recommends building them.

Scituate town planner Laura Harbottle said she was pleased with the call for more sidewalks — and the recommendation for a standard traffic light to replace the blinking light at the intersection of Henry Turner Bailey Road and Route 3A.

“They found the crash rate there was slightly higher than the state average for that type of intersection, so there is a safety problem there,” she said. “Hopefully, we can continue to move through the process and get funding.”

“Frankly, everything is subject to approval” by the state Department of Transportation, Brewer said. “No matter what we want to do, we have to go through them. It’s kind of a complicated bureaucratic system, but having the study really gives us leverage to make these changes.”

“It can be frustrating, but that is the way the federal-state-municipal partnership works,” said Fred Koed, who chairs the Cohasset Board of Selectmen and uses Route 3A to commute to work. “The town’s job is to make sure it has developed a clear consensus by making sure all the stakeholders have had their say on the options.”

He added that he supports the report’s recommendations and looks “forward to working with Representative Bradley and Senator [Robert] Hedlund and local officials in Cohasset and Scituate to move these improvements forward.”

Diane Kennedy, the vice chairwoman of the Cohasset Board of Selectmen, said that “as someone who drives out of my way to avoid most lefthand turns onto 3A,” she agreed with the bulk of the recommendations for improving the road’s safety and was eager to work with residents, other officials, and business owners.

“We need to work swiftly to identify funding sources as, like everything else, these critical improvements will require significant resources,” she said.

The report does not put a price on the recommended improvements. Sean Pfalzer of the Metropolitan Planning Organization said typically 80 percent of the cost of such transportation projects is funded by the federal government and 20 percent by the state.

The results of the one-year study, which the state agreed to conduct at the request of Scituate and Cohasset officials, were released earlier this month.

Johanna Seltz can be reached at seltzjohanna@gmail.com.
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