To the editor:
I am writing in response to the Sept. 6 editorial entitled “Traffic mess in Danvers must be addressed.” The MassDOT Highway Division shares many of the constructive comments and concerns expressed in that article as well as those that have been provided through our online “Feedback” system or through state and local elected officials. As alluded to in the article, one of the primary goals of this project was to improve the safety for regional traffic entering and exiting Route 128. The existing interchange configuration was substandard and presented some very real safety challenges that warranted improvement. Notwithstanding, the Highway Division is focused on developing and implementing projects that improve the quality of life for all of those that use our facilities and we are keenly aware of the need to accomplish this in a manner that does not create new safety concerns and congestion.
Though the project design included widening along Route 62 and Route 35, it was constrained by the available width beneath the Route 128 bridges. The design using a series of closely spaced traffic signals to allow drivers to enter and exit the ramps at these interchanges is complex to be sure. There has been congestion and inefficiencies that have occurred since the traffic signal systems were put into full operation earlier this summer. Some of that can be attributed to the fact that the project remains unfinished with ongoing construction activities. Also, the coordination of the signals may also be impacted by construction on the part of other entities. However, it is clear that there are some larger issues at hand. Initial efforts focused on fine tuning the existing settings to improve the coordination amongst the traffic signals. Although those efforts resulted in some improvement, clearly it has not been enough.
MassDOT is listening to your concerns. Along with our consultants, we are currently collecting new traffic count data for the peak commuting periods and over 24 hour periods. The morning and afternoon peak period counts are being taken this week and the 24 hour counts will follow in the coming weeks. This data will provide fresh information that will be used to analyze and develop the optimal lane use and traffic signal settings for the corridor during peak commuting periods and for times during the day and evening when traffic volumes may be different.
Today’s traffic signal equipment provides flexibility to establish multiple plans that can be implemented by the time of day and the day of week to be responsive to the actual traffic volumes.
MassDOT expects to complete our initial analyses of the critical peak commuting periods by the end of September with implementation of updated timing and phasing plans occurring in early October. Additional plans will be implemented later in October once the 24 hour count data is available and has been reviewed. We encourage our customers that travel through the corridor to continue to provide us with comments on your experiences as we plan and implement those changes.
Frank DePaola, P.E.
Administrator, Highway Division
Massachusetts Department of Transportation