2015-03-19 / Opinion

Roundabouts Back on the Table

By James Merolla

­Middletown strives to make things safer along Aquidneck Avenue.

Sean Raymond, a project engineer for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT), revealed plans to the Middletown Town Council on Monday, March 16, that would offer safety improvements for pedestrians and vehicles. Discussions on needed changes have been in the works since joint meetings began more than a year ago between town officials and the state.

Improvements may come as soon as the spring of 2016 for Aquidneck Avenue at the intersections of Crescent Road, Green End Avenue, Purgatory Road, and Valley Road. Additional sidewalks, new traffic lights, and at least one roundabout will help mitigate speeding and other traffic concerns at those locations.

Raymond identified Aquidneck and Green End as a “high crash" intersection, with more than 88 accidents and five injuries in a five-year period.

“This location was identified as needing improvement,” said Raymond. Plans include widening the intersection, providing turning lanes, replacing a traffic signal, adding a new sidewalk and curb, and enhancing pedestrian access.

Council member Theresa Santos asked, “How much is this going to cost?” Raymond answered that estimates ranged from $200,000 to $300,000, with federal funds paying the bill.

The project would not add to the town tax rate and much of the work could be done during the night for a three-month period, he added.

According to the presentation at Gaudet Middle School a proposed roundabout at Aquidneck and Green End avenues will not be built, but roundabouts at Aquidneck's intersections with Purgatory and Valley are possibilities.

Raymond explained that a proposed Valley Road roundabout would tend to reduce severe driving angles, forcing vehicles to slow down to an average of 20 mph or less.

The intersection at Purgatory Road was of particular concern in transportation studies, Raymond added, “because it’s almost a straightaway.” He cited 22 crashes there in a five-year period, mostly due to increased speeds onto Memorial Boulevard.

A potential roundabout there would accommodate pedestrians and provide better access to hotels, restaurants, and the beach. “It could be a southern gateway to the Atlantic Beach district,” said Raymond.

“The roundabout really does not allow for pedestrian safety,” objected council member Paul Rodrigues. “A roundabout doesn’t seem as safe as a signal.”

“I am very passionate about sidewalks on Aquidneck Avenue, said Santos, stressing that they are needed between Gaudet and East Main Road.

Raymond added that the plans are still preliminary and RIDOT needs officials, residents, and abutters to offer input to improve the process. Public meetings will be held through 2015.

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