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  • Taunton Daily Gazette

    'Scary': Residents sound alarm about 3 dangerous Taunton intersections. What's being done?

    By Daniel Schemer, The Taunton Daily Gazette,

    28 days ago

    TAUNTON — “I’ve met new neighbors because of car accidents right in front of our home,” Whittenton Street resident Trisha Fernandes said.

    Fernandes and her mother Diane live at 142 Whittenton St. in Taunton and are greatly concerned about the number of crashes occurring at the intersection of Whittenton and Washington streets, they said.

    Both Trisha and Diane told Council members on April 16 there’s been a high frequency of accidents at that intersection for at least as long as they’ve lived at their home, 34 years.

    “We are looking for anything that would bring safety. We’ll take anything,” Trisha Fernandes told the Council.

    Taunton Police Safety Officer Arsenio Chaves told the Council Committee on Police and License that three four-way intersections, all within a mile of each other on Washington Street, have a high volume of crashes:  Whittenton Street; Jackson Street; and East Britannia Street.

    How many crashes have there been?

    From early May 2022 to April 10, 2024, each intersection had around 25 crashes reported:

    • Washington at East Britannia Street: 25 crashes
    • Washington at Whittenton Street: 25 crashes
    • Washington at Jackson Street: 26 crashes

    Committee Chair Jeffrey Postell asked Chaves how these numbers compare to the rest of the city and Chaves said, “better than some, but worse than most.”

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    'It’s scary': Line of sight problems

    None of the three intersections has a traffic light. East Britannia is the only one with flashing lights to indicate an intersection. All three have stop signs for the side streets, but not for the main street, Washington.

    Chaves said line of sight at all three intersections is problematic, with indications that cars trying to either cross an intersection or turn onto Washington Street have to nudge their way past the cross lines in order to see oncoming traffic.

    Councilor and Committee member Estele Borges said when she’s driving in the area “its so extremely difficult to see at those intersections. It’s scary.”

    Trisha Fernandes agreed, saying telephone poles and neighbors' trees and fencing at the Whittenton Street intersection obstruct drivers’ views when stopping there.

    Her mother Diane Fernandes said she has to “edge out” of her own driveway because of these visibility issues.

    Bay Street resident Dana Brundage told the Council she’s “scared someone will hit me from the side streets” and often “holds her breath” when going through one of those intersections.

    Postell said he himself often “white-knuckles it” whenever he’s driving across one of those intersections and is aware of the line-of-sight issues.

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    What did speed study show?

    Thirty miles per hour is the posted speed limit at all three intersections.

    Chaves performed a speed analysis, placing a radar gun in the middle point between the Whittenton Street and Jackson Street intersections, from Dec. 13-20, 2023.

    The monitoring occurred 24/7 during this period. He added the instrument was placed discretely, and “you wouldn’t know it was there when driving.”

    During this time, 45,936 vehicles were recorded. Chaves told the Gazette he set the radar up with a tolerance level of 10mph past the speed excess point — meaning the device didn’t classify cars as speeding unless they were driving over 40mph.

    The tolerance level was set up, Chaves said, based on the threshold of discretion officers may use when it comes to enforcing the speed limit and issuing a ticket to the vehicle.  Chaves said he wasn’t speaking for all officers or any department regarding when they will pull over a vehicle if its captured driving over a posted limit.

    The study showed that 4% of all vehicles recorded, or 1,837, were driving over 40 mph.

    The analysis also reported that 85% of all vehicles were recorded at 36 mph.

    The highest speed recorded during that week was 70 mph.

    Neighbors point to speeding

    Neighbors speaking at the Committee hearing said speeding was a big factor in the accidents.

    “Speed is a major thing on Washington. They fly down there,” said Phyllis Sink, who lives on one of the corners of the intersection of Whittenton and Washington streets. She confirmed Trisha Fernandes’ story about meeting neighbors when an accident occurs at the intersection, saying that’s how they met.

    Sink said that she has to park her car on the other side of Whittenton and “says prayers” every time she crosses the street to get to her car.

    Trisha Fernandes reminded officials a school bus stop is at one of the corners of the Whittenton Street intersection and she’s always worried for kids’ safety.

    Possible solutions

    Chaves suggested increasing speed enforcement along that area of Washington Street.

    Councilor Scott Martin suggested there needed to be greater enforcement of zoning restrictions for corner lot residences at these intersections , specifically, when it comes to maintaining features that can potentially obstruct a driver’s view, such as shrubs and trees in homes’ yards, as well as fencing that is either not set back enough from the property line, or isn’t wire fencing.

    “We need to hold residents accountable to the zoning laws. The safety of hundreds outweigh the aesthetics of one person’s landscape,” Martin said.

    Councilor John McCaul suggested traffic calming measures, like speed bumps along this portion of Washington Street.

    But Councilor Estele Borges said there may be issues regarding snow removal if speed bumps were added. Borges suggested installing four-way stop signs at those intersections, saying other recent installations, such as at the intersection of School and Arlington streets, “made a huge difference” with the decrease in traffic accidents.

    But City Engineer Michael Patneaude cautioned against installing four-way stop signs at these intersections because “we don’t yet know the impact that will have on Washington Street as a whole.”

    Traffic study recommended

    Patneaude recommended a traffic study of Washington Street, starting all the way at the intersection with Broadway, going past East Britannia and Whittenton Street, and reaching the Jackson Street intersection. He said initial estimates for the study are $30,000.

    Commissioner of Public Works Fred Cornaglia told the Council Committee the city could be placed on a wait list with the Southeastern Regional Planning & Economic Development District (SRPEDD) in order to get the traffic study done for free.

    Committee members didn’t want to wait for completion of a traffic study before anything is done.

    “Time is of the essence. I prefer we put the pedal to the metal,” Postell said.

    Beefed up police presence

    The Committee on Police and License voted to recommend the full City Council increase police presence at the three intersections for traffic and speed enforcement.

    Borges recommended referring the traffic study to the mayor’s office for funding. The Committee voted unanimously on this motion, as well as to recommend the city’s Building Department look into increasing enforcement of zoning restrictions for the corner lot residences at those intersections.

    The City Council adopted all of the Committee on Police and License's recommendations regarding the three Washington Street intersections.

    Chaves told the Gazette there will also be flashing speed monitors placed near signage on Washington Street that will display to drivers how fast they are currently going.

    This article originally appeared on The Taunton Daily Gazette: 'Scary': Residents sound alarm about 3 dangerous Taunton intersections. What's being done?

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