Drivers, police deal with detours after Route 10 bridge closes in Easthampton
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Many drivers are using West and Glendale streets to bypass the closed bridge on Route 10. Officials say it has caused congestion in an already dangerous intersection, pictured here June 5, where West and Glendale streets and Loudville and Pomeroy Meadow roads meet. PHOTO BY REBECCA EVERETT Purchase photo reprints »
The bridge on Route 10 in Easthampton, shortly before it closed Monday. Purchase photo reprints »
EASTHAMPTON — Four days into the six-month closure of the Route 10 bridge over the Manhan River, city and state officials said traffic is flowing reasonably well through two detours, though adjustments are needed.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s $3.75 million bridge replacement project means that while the bridge is completely closed until early December, the estimated 22,000 vehicles that used it every day have to take one of two new routes or avoid the area completely.
“I think drivers are getting used to it,” Mayor Michael A. Tautznik said Wednesday. He said the detours seem to be working fine, but noted that the state or the city may need to address a few congested areas. “We need to figure out if things need to be done,” he added.
Intersection under pressure
The official detour sends drivers along Pleasant, Lovefield and O’Neill streets, but many drivers are choosing instead to take West Street to Glendale Street, which then rejoins Route 10 south of the city center. Tautznik said that added traffic has put “a lot of pressure” on the intersection where West and Glendale streets and Loudville and Pomeroy Meadow roads meet.
“We’re going to keep an eye on that intersection,” Tautznik said. “It has poor sight lines.”
The intersection is on the side of the hill, and the roads do not meet squarely, so motorists can have trouble seeing if it is safe to pull out. The city has been working for 15 years to redesign it, and MassDOT expects to put the project out to bid this summer.
Police Chief Bruce W. McMahon said that Northern Construction, the company replacing the bridge, has hired a police officer to direct traffic at that intersection during peak traffic hours for at least a week, as well as at the spot on Route 10 near West Street where the bridge is closed.
Tautznik said he does not know what steps the city could take to improve the intersection of West and Glendale streets and Loudville and Pomeroy Meadow roads, but said that additional signs might be helpful. Some residents have asked that a traffic signal be added there to keep traffic moving, but Tautznik said the state will not do the work because it is not the official detour, and it would likely cost the city “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to do so.
Jeffrey Doyle, a Florence resident who owns the Silver Spoon Restaurant on Main Street in Easthampton, said the state should have acknowledged the route would be a major detour and installed a traffic signal there. “That is a dangerous intersection without a lot of traffic. With a lot of traffic, it’s even more so,” he said.
MassDOT spokeswoman Sara Lavoie said the unexpectedly heavy traffic there caused the department to add additional signs on the route, but it is still considered an unofficial detour.
In addition to affecting the intersection, the heavy use of the route has also prompted residents of West Street, as well as other roads on the detours, to complain to police about drivers speeding by.
“We’ve been running extra radar to slow people down,” McMahon said Wednesday. He said that in general, speeding has not been a big problem, and the constant presence of officers reminds drivers to go slowly. “Every officer working a shift is being told to hit the areas that are most affected by the detours,” he added.
Along the official detour on Pleasant, Lovefield and O’Neill streets, traffic signals have been added at the intersection of Route 10 and O’Neill Street and at the intersection of Pleasant and Ferry streets. Traffic was backed up nearly half a mile up O’Neill Street from the intersection with Route 10 Wednesday afternoon, but Tautznik said that some delays at the traffic signals are to be expected during peak traffic times.
At the intersection of Pleasant and Ferry streets, the new signal does not have a green arrow for those turning left onto Ferry Street, so there are sometimes long lines of vehicles in the left lane waiting to turn.
Lavoie said MassDOT has adjusted the timing of all its new traffic signals to improve traffic flow after the district traffic engineer and construction staff observed traffic.
She also said Northern Construction has expanded its working hours as it replaces the 62-year-old Manhan River bridge. Workers are now on site from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. “The contractor will work extended hours as needed and as appropriate for current operations to keep on schedule for the closure,” she said in an email to the Gazette.
Tautznik said it is important to remember the city is only a few days into the closure, and traffic issues will diminish as drivers become used to the new routes or choose to avoid the area.
“I think in a week or so, things will settle down,” he said.
Rebecca Everett can be reached at email@example.com.