By Laura Hayes, Contributing Writer
SHREWSBURY — It’s official – Shrewsbury residents will no longer be able to turn left from South Street onto Route 20.
The Board of Selectmen voted during their June 8 meeting to amend the traffic rules and orders, now requiring drivers to turn right.
“This is the final step, so to speak, in the work and receipt of public comments that the board has had with regards to making safety improvements along Route 20, especially at South Street,” said Town Manager Kevin Mizikar.
The selectmen’s vote established the regulation on the town’s books and will allow the Shrewsbury Police Department to enforce the turns, Mizikar said.
In an email, Mizikar said the new rule will go into effect as soon as the town gets an advisory message board up for about a week and installs official “no left turn” signs.
The conversation to restrict left turns from South Street onto Route 20 ramped up following a crash in March involving a school bus and a tractor-trailer.
The bus was carrying students from the nearby Al-Hamra Academy, which is located on South Street. Seven students were sent to the hospital.
In the official accident report, the tractor-trailer driver told police that the bus entered Route 20. The truck driver switched lanes to attempt to avoid the bus before the two collided. The bus driver told police that she thought the truck was far enough away, but it was driving faster than she thought.
Since that incident, Shrewsbury has sent a letter to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation recommending the left turn restrictions.
Additionally, the town has requested federal funds for Route 20 improvements through U.S. Congressman James McGovern’s (D-MA 02) office.
During the June meeting, Mizikar announced that he received word from McGovern’s office that $8 million was included in the House transportation bill for Route 20.
Mizikar said it will still need to be considered in the Senate bill.
“It’s a good starting point,” he said. “If it wasn’t in this House bill, then it wouldn’t be considered.”
As this conversation has continued, leaders like Mizkar and State Representative Hannah Kane (R – Shrewsbury) have noted that their work long preceded the Al-Hamra crash in March.
Speaking with the Community Advocate after that incident, Kane discussed her efforts dating back to 2016 to improve safety along the Route 20 Corridor.
After initial outreach, she said, the state embarked on a multi-year study to eventually produce the Route 20 Corridor Master Plan, which recommended improvements.
With that plan in hand, the region saw public hearings and Board of Selectmen discussions regarding Route 20.
From there, early last year, the state also lowered the speed limit for part of the traffic artery to 45 miles per hour.
That followed further outreach from herself, Kane said.