After more than a decade of planning and dozens of meetings gauging local concerns on the reconstruction of Route 138 between routes 2 and 108, some residents and officials, still had unanswered questions on Tuesday afternoon.
Plans are at 90 percent completion, according to state Department of Transportation officials, but several residents spoke out on public safety and aesthetic concerns they said should have been dealt with years ago. Robert Smith, DOT deputy chief engineer, said with infrastructure designs nearing completion, “now is the time to hammer out the details.”
Kingston Fire District Chief Nathan Barrington accused DOT officials of ignoring his concerns that proposed bump outs in Kingston Village could hinder fire trucks’ accessibility to historic buildings in the area.
“My concern is not with the roundabouts, my concern is the constraints you are creating within the village,” said Barrington. The project proposes replacing some of the street-side parking in the village with curbed bump outs that Vincent Murray, planning director, said would calm traffic and create a safer pedestrian environment.
In August Barrington outlined these public safety concerns in a letter to town and DOT officials, but he said he never heard back. He said another similar letter also went without a response 10 years ago.
“The restriction still exists,” said Jon Schock, public works director. “We have two traffic lanes with on-street parking, what’s the difference with a physical elevated bump out than with a car parked there?”
Committee member Dorald Beasley said plans showed the roadway would be wide enough to fit the KFD’s largest trucks and still have space for a lane of travel. “Where’s the problem,” asked Beasley, a Kingstown resident and member of the committee since its inception in 2003.
“Maybe there isn’t a problem, but a response would have been good,” said Barrington. “I think these bump outs are going to preclude people from yielding [to emergency vehicles].”
Barrington said the roundabouts could slow trucks by 10 – 30 seconds each. Roundabouts will be installed on Route 138 where it intersects with Route 2, Keaney Road and Ministerial Road. Signals at Route 138's intersection with Route 108, Upper College Road and Fairgrounds Road will be upgraded.
Town and DOT officials promised to meet with Barrington and the Union Fire District Chief Robert Perry within the next six weeks to ensure that emergency response times and abilities would not be impaired.
"I also have concerns as a taxpayer and with the last public hearing in 2003, will there be more opportunities," asked Barrington. In 2003 the Town Council stamped approval on the Route 138 reconstruction, establishing a committee to represent the town's interests as the DOT moved forward with designs. All meeting of the Route 138 Project Area Committee are open to the public.
The 11-member committee represents the DOT and juggles the town’s competing interests – public safety, aesthetics and
DOT and town engineers agreed to meet with Barrington and Union Fire District Chief Robert Perry to ensure emergency response times are not impaired.
Despite ample statistics, pictures and videos showing 18-wheelers, pedestrians and motorists harmoniously travelling in roundabouts similar to those proposed in Kingston, Lorraine A. Horton, of Kingston, had different information.
“I have a statistic here from a textbook that says that accidents are two to three times more likely in a roundabout than in an intersection,” said Horton, refuting information presented by Francisco Rivera of the DOT’s traffic design division.
Rivera said modern single-lane roundabouts – like the one’s proposed for Route 138 – are safer than four-way signalized intersections, decreasing crashes and fatalities. He said a pedestrian sidewalk on the roundabouts perimeter would be outfitted with four sidewalks on each of the streets feeding into the roundabout for easy passage by bikers, runners and walkers.
The size [of roundabouts] is much smaller than a traffic circle [or rotary], which is similar to the curves on a freeway – so people can drive 60 mph,” said Rivera. “WWhn you have the
Susan Axelrod, representing the Kingston Improvement Association worried the village’s brick sidewalks might not be replaced properly. The project calls for moving some of the sidewalks, which were funded and installed by the KIA. Axelrod also worried the loss of on-street parking would further deter residents from visiting the village, where students can monopolize parkng. Maintenance of grass strips that will abut the roadways was also a concern.
“The bump outs are going to be an obstacle for bike traffic,” said Axelrod. “You need to continue the attractive quality that KIA worked so hard to put into the village.”
Smith told residents that committee would continue to balance historic, safety and other local concerns to come up with a final plan that works.
“We have tried to get representatives from all the different [affected] entities so if there are concerns, the organization should get them written down and bring them to a representative at the table.,” said Smith. “People have come to this meeting many times and asked what the heck is taking so long. We are trying to keep this moving, but if issues make us go back, we will go back.”
Plans are available for review in the Planning Office at the , 180 High St., South Kingstown.