, Newburyport, MA


December 4, 2013

Our view: State makes traffic nightmare along Route 128

There were plenty of problems when the state unveiled its $23 million “upgrade” of the intersection at Route 128 and Route 62 in Danvers last fall.

Lights were poorly synchronized, signs were confusing, misspelled or nonexistent and the overall design caused more traffic confusion than traffic calming. Cars were often backed up from the lights to the Danversport Yacht Club. The line of eastbound autos, meanwhile, often stretched back toward the Holten Richmond Middle School. Traffic as far away as the Cummings Center in Beverly was affected.

In response, Massachusetts Department of Transportation officials promised to “tweak” the new collection of traffic lights in an effort to solve the problem.

A year later, it is clear the tweak didn’t do the trick. According to data from the Danvers Police Department, accidents at the intersection are up sharply at the intersection.

Police responded to 51 accidents at the junction in the first 10 months of 2011, 79 accidents during the same period last year and 87 accidents during the same 10 months this year, according to Danvers police analyst Sara Slavin.

“Of the 87 accidents this year, 35 were due to an operator taking a left turn, and six were identified as rear-end collisions,” Slavin said in a letter to selectmen.

Slavin also noted that “the new on- and off- ramps began being used on or about June 1, 2012, and 67 of the 79 accidents that occurred from January to October 2012 happened after the on-ramps opened.”

Much of the problem centers around the left turn from Route 62 eastbound onto the Route 128 north on-ramp, which requires cutting across two lanes of Route 62 traffic, guided only by a sometimes-it’s-there, sometimes-it’s-not green left-turn arrow.

The setup has led to a number of what police Chief Neil Ouellette calls “courtesy crashes.”

“One lane waves you by, and the other lane T-bones you,” Ouellette said. “The car in the second lane can’t see the vehicle.”

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