DANVERS — The state’s $23 million project meant to make the interchange of Route 128 at Route 62 safer appears to have only made things worse, according to Danvers police.
A meeting with the Board of Selectmen is planned Tuesday night to address what the police chief calls “a horrible intersection.”
Police Chief Patrick Ambrose described the problem as, “Too much traffic coming through such a small intersection with so many lights.”
The diamond-shaped reconstruction of the interchange removed the clover leaf design of some on- and off-ramps, and closed access to and from Route 128 on State Road and Liberty Street. The old configuration was known to cause rear-end crashes on Route 128 as traffic tried to merge onto the highway.
Police data, which does not reflect accidents on Route 128 handled by the state police or minor crashes handled with paper exchanges, shows there were 47 accidents at the interchange in 2010, the year the state Department of Transportation started work on the intersection.
But in 2012, there were 95 crashes and in 2015, there were 109. The new ramp configurations opened in June 2012.
That’s a rate of two to three accidents a week, Ambrose pointed out.
He said a vast majority of the accidents involve a “courtesy crash,” which happens when an eastbound driver attempts to turn left across two lanes of westbound traffic at the ramp to Route 128 northbound. Those seeking to turn left onto Route 128 south get bogged down in traffic, and try to wave the car seeking to go left through the turn. Poor sight lines mean the car turning left may not see the oncoming traffic heading west in the far traveling lane, leading to a crash.
The other type of accident involves rear-end crashes, Ambrose said.
“The general sense of the intersection,” he said, “it’s bogged down with the heavy traffic through the multiple lights. There are no clear lines of view, and that is adding to the accident problem.”
Prior to the reconfiguration, many of the accidents were minor fender benders with less damage, he said. Now, police are responding to more serious T-bone side impact crashes that happen at higher rates of speed, meaning more serious accidents and injuries.
“It’s a horrible intersection,” said Ambrose, who grew up in that end of town. “I have never seen that traffic problem that I’m seeing now. It’s a horrible design that does not work there.”
Due to the volume of traffic, the intersection is also hard to police, he added. And, the turning movements motorists are making are legal.
Selectman Gardner Trask said there has been a fair amount of discussion on Facebook about the intersection of late. It’s not the fault of selectmen the intersection was so poorly designed, Trask added.
Trask noted that someone posted a state DOT road safety audit report on Facebook from December 2013 that describes the situation at the intersection.
The report details 56 crashes at the northbound ramp on Elliott Street from June 2012 to October 2013, and found 14 were deemed a “courtesy crash.” Of the crashes, 47 of the 56 occurred between a vehicle heading east attempting to turn left onto Route 128 north, and a vehicle heading west through the intersection.
Trask said the state created the new diamond configuration to reduce fatalities and crashes on Route 128. While that may be the case now, Trask said, the state also created the situation on Elliott Street.
The increased volume of accidents is putting a strain on town resources, he said, as the town responds to crashes with a police officer, an ambulance and a fire engine.
“The town is suffering with the state’s architecture of this,” Trask said.
The Board of Selectmen plans to hear a report on accident data from Ambrose at its regular meeting, Tuesday, May 17, at 7 p.m. in the Toomey Room at Town Hall, 1 Sylvan St.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.
Crash data for Route 128 at Route 62
Year Crashes Monthly rate
2010 47 3.9
2011 67 5.6
2012 95 7.9
2013 96 8
2014 110 9.2
2015 109 9.1
2016 33* 9.4
*year to date
Source: Danvers Police Department