NORTH ATTLEBORO - A team of Northeastern University students has come up with a way to alleviate the traffic woes that plague the intersection of Routes 1, 1A and Elmwood Street - installing a roundabout.
The roundabout, which could be constructed within the existing roadway, would be near the junction of Park and North Washington streets. Cars would travel around the rotary and be delivered to a set of signals on Route 1, which would work in concert.
Sarah Casey, a member of the Northeastern University student team who is also a North Attleboro resident, knows first-hand the difficulty negotiating the tricky Route 1 intersection.
"We've all driven through this intersection and we've been very frustrated and confused about where to go," she said. "The idea of a roundabout is very new and obviously North Attleboro has never seen anything like this before. It's working in other areas and it's an idea we feel strongly about because it's innovative and exciting."
The students, working with civil engineering professor Daniel Dulaski, proposed traffic improvements within the two-mile stretch of North and South Washington streets from Park Street to the CVS Pharmacy as their senior capstone project. In addition to Casey, the team working on the proposal is Conor Murphy, Kathleen Keen, Sean McIntyre, Nick Korzec and Yekaterina Ryzhova.
Acknowledging that a roundabout would be a long-term solution, the students also offered up an easier, short-term fix, which would add designated turning lanes to the current intersection. The short-term fix would reduce the the evening delay for motorists from more than a minute to 30 seconds, Keen said.
Fixing the intersection is just a small piece of the proposal, which was presented to town officials on Wednesday.
The heart of the plan would be revamping the downtown business area through a "road diet" that would shrink the roadway, allowing for 11-foot sidewalks to provide space for both pedestrian and bicycle traffic as well as benches, bike racks and even outdoor cafe tables. The plan would not decrease the availability of on-street parking and would still include a buffer dotted with occasional trees between the sidewalk and road.
The area near Community School, which is heavily traveled, would also be narrowed to create shorter crosswalks. In addition, a parking lane would be added in front of the school.
At Elm Street, bump outs would be added to shorten crossing distances and bicyclists would be rerouted down East Street to avoid pedestrian traffic.
Improvements, not including the roundabout, would cost about $2.2 million, the students said.
Murphy, who served as the project manager said the team had several goals- ensuring opportunities for vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic, improving traffic flow and making the downtown a destination.
Town officials were impressed by the plans, noting that the students vetted many ideas and will provide a report on the others they explored, including restricting the downtown to pedestrian traffic only or making the downtown area one-way.
"I never thought about a rotary, but I think it's ingenious," said Selectman Michael Thompson. "We travel that road and we've all hated that intersection from the first day we drove a car into it. When you look at it this way, it would be much easier and certainly a lot safer."
Fisher said students completed the project at no cost to the town.
"They've looked at thing and given us a lot of ideas. This isn't the type of thing where we're getting a downtown design and that's where we're going. When the time comes, we'll have something that the department of public works can use to see if there are good ideas that can be implemented," he said.
Dulaski said town officials can treat the plan as a "buffet," picking and choosing what elements should be pursued in the future.