Safety fixes recommended for Colrain intersection

Recorder Staff
Tuesday, December 05, 2017

COLRAIN — A runaway truck ramp, rumble strips and high-friction road treatments to reduce vehicle run-off crashes are among recommendations for reducing vehicle crashes along the Greenfield/Jacksonville road intersection, where a New Hampshire man lost his life this summer.

On Aug. 15, Robert Leustek, 46, of Winchester, N.H., was killed when the loaded dump truck he was driving ran off the curve and crashed into a brick wall of the “Blue Block” building at 3 Main Road (Route 112). His death, coupled with a history of collisions from vehicles traveling down the steep Greenfield Road, triggered calls for a study and more road safety improvements.

Altogether, there have been 12 crashes at this intersection from 2010 to 2017, according to police reports. Seven were single-car crashes, two were rear-end collisions and two were sideswipe collisions. Four crashes were due to vehicles traveling too fast and three were caused by poor roadway conditions. In addition to the fatal accident, two crashes resulted in physical injuries and nine resulted in personal property damage only. Also, at least one large truck crash occurred in the intersection this year.

Among the safety issues reported are:

Roadway geometry. The shallow Y-shaped roadway curvature of Jacksonville-Greenfield-Main roads results in a limited line of sight for those coming downhill from Greenfield Road, encouraging those drivers to go faster than the 20 mph speed limit. The report says drivers on either side of the curve have a hard time seeing oncoming traffic, and that this curve may not be compliant with current road design standards.

Traffic observations. The curve and grade transitions, from 5 percent to 11 percent, make it dangerous for vehicles — especially trucks — to travel through the intersection at too-high speeds. Another problem with the roadway geometry is some truck drivers have a difficult time maintaining momentum to travel uphill on Greenfield Road, toward Greenfield. Also, those turning left from the church-like Brick Meeting House parking area have limited sight distance along Greenfield Road.

In the winter, traffic increases from skiers going up to Vermont, and town officials fear that GPS systems are sending more drivers onto this route, rather than directing them to take Route 112 North from Shelburne Falls, which is a flat roadway. Black ice in winter is also a possible danger.

Pedestrian safety. Another concern is that school buses stop near the Brick Meeting House, where there is limited visibility for pedestrian traffic. Signs indicate a pedestrian crossing, but there is no crosswalk or pedestrian ramps, and students and pedestrians are “forced to cross the road wherever and whenever they feel safest,” the report says.

The chief recommendation for improving the poor roadway geometry is to “consider removing the church (the Brick Meeting House) or other properties at this intersection, to allow the horizontal alignment to be improved through the intersection.” The Brick Meeting House is an historic structure, now privately owned. Other recommendations are to consider redesigning the approach to roadways, to improve grades and draining; consider adding additional LED street lights to improve visibility around the intersection; evaluate the use of salt and sand on steep Greenfield Road and consider pretreatment using liquid magnesium chloride.

Suggested improvements for traffic operations include: installing a runaway truck ramp; consider adding a “truck exclusion zone” on Greenfield Road, due to the roadway grades; and consider rumble strips to address driver fatigue and prevent runoff crashes.

Other suggestions call for more warning signs on Greenfield Road, warning of roadway curves and slopes, reflective pavement markers for better nighttime visibility, flashing lights alerting drivers approaching the school zone, and more markings for pedestrian crossing areas. The report suggests moving the school bus stop to a more visible location near the intersection.

The Selectboard received the Road Safety Audit on Monday, and are waiting for another report on the road. They said the highway superintendent has recently received a flashing LED warning sign that will be going up on the roadway soon.

The Road Safety Audit was prepared for MassDOT (the state Department of Transportation) by McMahon Associates Inc. of Taunton and compiled by a 19-member team that included DOT district and traffic safety officials, Colrain police, Colrain selectboard members, and State Police.