The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is now at the forefront of the Route 6 redevelopment plan that once bore the fingerprints of the Southeastern Regional Economic Planning and Development District (SRPEDD).
A SRPEDD member sits in on the DOT conference calls, but the commonwealth’s new leadership sits well with members of the Marion Planning Board and the Transportation and Circulation Task Force.
On September 29, the two Marion entities met on Zoom to digest, discuss, and review a presentation that highlighted options that the state is looking at for the redesign of Route 6, especially in the area between Front Street and Barnabas Road.
“I’m impressed with the presentation,” said Jennifer Francis, who together with fellow Transportation and Circulation Task Force member Kerry Saltonstall have formed a subcommittee task force of sorts. Town Administrator Jay McGrail is in on their every call and Select Board Chair/Planning Board member Norm Hills is always involved.
Based on Marion’s Master Plan and three prior meetings, including an August 4 meeting with stakeholders, goals and safety issues are being addressed in a plan to get Marion more connected between the town’s north end and the historic village.
Route 6 in Marion was last paved in 1987, and no one has debated how dangerous it has become to ride a bike on the route.
The “two flavors,” as Francis described the options during the September 29 meeting, address the “rural” Route 6, where two 11-foot lanes with a sidewalk on the north side and a 10-foot shared-use path on the village side are recommended, and the “gateway area” (from Barnabas Road to beyond Front Street), where three 11-foot lanes, including a middle turning lane along with a bike path on the water side and a sidewalk on the inland side, are recommended.
New intersections would turn some of the speed-inducing, angular junctions into T-shape, non-lighted turns with a left-turn pocket. Converse Lane would be among the modified intersections, and dedicated left-turn lanes would be featured in both directions on Route 6 at Front Street.
The gateway area has had the most accidents in Marion, so the town is being asked to consider three options.
Option 1 reconstructs the intersection of Spring Street to become more perpendicular, taking away the ability to drive directly across Route 6 to continue on Spring. A median dividing Route 6 would make left turns illegal but possible for emergency responders.
In Option 2, Spring Street becomes a one-way street north of Route 6 heading toward Route 6 so no entry onto Spring Street north of Route 6 would be allowed from Route 6.
Option 3 places a signal light at Spring Street, but Option 3 is least likely because, in the opinion of Hills, Marion will never meet the state requirements for lights at that intersection.
Quick-build opportunities would include curb extensions designed to sharpen turns and slow the speed of traffic, test network changes with temporary barriers, and signal-timing adjustments such as a dedicated left turn.
A full-build implementation would begin with construction in the area of Spring Street and Front Street, and the sequence would build out from the middle. The proposed reconfiguration may or may not reach out to the Mattapoisett town line in the vicinity of Old Rochester Regional High School.
Transportation and Circulation Task Force member Steve Kokkins commented on the quality of the presentation and asked if the central section redesign proposals can all fit inside the total right-of-way. Francis confirmed that, despite the shared-use (bicycle) path, sidewalk, and buffers, the new designs all fit within the existing boundaries of Route 6.
Members debated the merits of a left turn from Route 6 westbound onto Spring Street, some arguing for that egress while others said it is impossible to please everyone and achieve the goals of the redesign. The premise of prohibiting the left onto Spring Street in the direction of Tabor Academy is a left-turn signal onto Front Street.
Saltonstall told the meeting that data indicates that drivers do not turn left onto Route 6 out of Spring Street, but turning left onto Spring Street from Route 6 west is necessary to avoid overloading Ryder Road, the next logical turn for those who would be forced into going left onto Front Street.
Francis said Option 2 provides a dedicated left-turn lane onto Spring Street.
As for a one-way Spring Street heading toward Route 6 from Brew Fish restaurant, the 28-unit residential development planned by Sherman Briggs would require using Route 6 just to cycle back to Front Street in order to drive out to I-195.
“We’ll have to wait to see what the surveys tell us,” said Hills.
“This is the most challenging piece,” said Francis, agreeing with Saltonstall. “We can’t accept that you can’t turn left onto Spring Street.”
Marion resident Barry Gaffey joined the meeting and called Spring Street “a tough nut.” He similarly avoids Route 6 around Creek Road. “I personally drive to Point (Road) and let the light make it easy for me,” he said.
Kokkins noted that the Creek Road intersection is among those that, in the redesign, will become more perpendicular.
Marion’s feedback to the DOT will lead to more revisions and another presentation before any final decisions are made.
Marion Planning Board/Transportation and Circulation Task Force
By Mick Colageo