Rep. Kane responds to Route 20 traffic concerns after school bus crash

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Police reports shed light on incidents

Photo by/Dakota Antelman
The Al-Hamra school stands just off Route 20 in Shrewsbury.

By Dakota Antelman, Managing Editor

Shrewsbury – State Rep. Hannah Kane (R – Shrewsbury) reiterated her commitment to addressing traffic issues along Route 20 after a crash last month involving a school bus and a tractor trailer sent seven students to the hospital and reignited past discussions on roadway safety.  

A bus carrying students from the private Al-Hamra Academy was involved in a collision with a tractor trailer, March 23. After school Principal Noor Ali raised concerns about dangerous conditions that she felt could have contributed to the crash, Rep. Kane detailed steps her office has taken dating back roughly five years

Kane starts outreach early in legislative career

Work started, according to Kane, in May 2016.

“I reached out to MassDOT District 3 (then) highway director Jonathan Gulliver, to ask that the Route 20 Corridor in Shrewsbury be evaluated for the traffic impacts,” she said.

Her request, with support from Shrewsbury town government, led to a multi-year study which, in turn, prompted the development of what was called the Route 20 Corridor Master Plan. That had the goal of developing recommendations for improvements along the major traffic artery.

As the Master Plan rolled out, Kane told the Community Advocate that the region saw several well-publicized and well-attended public hearings.

As Ali and the community at Al-Hamra expressed their traffic concerns prior to this latest incident, Kane said she encouraged them to attend.

In addition to the hearings, the Board of Selectmen also held its own public meetings.

Kane advocates speed limit change

In early 2020, Kane said she and Shrewsbury officials directly asked the state to prioritize a review of the speed limit along parts of Route 20.

“That was done with the new speed limit of 45 miles per hour in place along Route 20 in Shrewsbury from the Northborough town line,” Kane stated. 

New speed limit signs were in place by May 26, 2020. 

State seeks funding for future action

Still eyeing change, MassDOT approved an estimated $15.4 million dollar project last year to hire a consultant to design roadway improvements based on recommendations the Route 20 Master Plan first made.

According to Kane, full funding for the project still needs to be identified as she had not heard an update from MassDOT since February of this year.

Safety still a top priority on Route 20

Before this year’s bus collision, in 2019, an SUV carrying a number of Al-Hamra students collided with another car on Route 20.

However, the stretch of Route 20 in front of Al-Hamra has actually had fewer crash incidents than a number of other spots on Shrewsbury’s Route 20 corridor since 2018, according MassDOT’s Impact Database of car accident crash reports. 

Further, an eyewitness quote on the official accident report from that 2019 crash offered perspective on the incident. 

“The truck, two vehicles in front of us, has no time or distance to avoid hitting the van which pulled out in front of him,” that statement said.

A separate report detailing the 2021 crash similarly weighed in.

“A school bus entered the travel lanes,” the tractor trailer driver reportedly told police. “I switched lanes to try to avoid it. The bus continued into my lane with me breaking hard and we collided.” 

In a separate statement, the bus driver gave her side of the story.

“A blue car let me go,” she said. “I looked left and right a couple times, looked left, right, left again, paused, left, right, left again. [I] saw [the] truck but it appeared to be far enough away that I could safely pull out but it was going faster than I thought.”

Following that crash, public officials still say they hope to improve safety along this corridor. The process just may take additional time. 

“The cost of the improvements is substantial,” Shrewsbury Town Manager Kevin Mizikar told the Community Advocate in a statement. “The Town of Shrewsbury would like it to move faster. But we understand the complexities of a project like this.”