MassDOT hosts public hearing on Route 20 improvements in Shrewsbury

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Cars bustle past the intersection of Route 20 and South Street in Shrewsbury. Photo/Tami White
Cars bustle past the intersection of Route 20 and South Street in Shrewsbury. (Photo/Tami White)

SHREWSBURY – Two roundabouts may be coming to the Route 20 corridor as part of a series of improvements.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) gave a presentation on the proposed improvements on Sept. 14.

“The intersections of Route 20 at Walnut Street and Valente Drive are both identified as high crash locations by MassDOT,” said District Three Traffic Operations Engineer with MassDOT Joseph Frawley. “Additionally, the portion of the corridor between the wetlands and Valente Drive has been identified as having a significant rate of fatal and injury crashes.”

Frawley noted several deficiencies in the corridor, including the lack of turn lanes, limited accommodations for bikers and pedestrians, limited sight distances for drivers on side streets and substandard shoulder widths.

Route 20 crashes

MassDOT statistics that were presented during the meeting indicated that the most frequent westbound crashes were rear-endings because of congestion, left-turning vehicles and the traffic signal at the intersection of South and Green streets.

The statistics further indicate that three-quarters of the crashes in the eastern portion of the project involved a vehicle turning left either into or out of a street or driveway. 

In recent years, there was a crash involving a bus carrying Al-Hamra Academy students and a tractor trailer in 2021 and a crash involving an SUV carrying students in 2019. 

Eighth Sulaimaan Khan recalled these crashes during a presentation of funding for the project on Sept. 7. He remembered voicing his concerns following a crash when he was in fourth grade. 

“All I remember is speaking out for something that I cared about because it affected people I cared about,” Khan said.

What is proposed 

Frawley presented two potential plans for the corridor. 

One of the plans calls for constructing a shared-use path on the south side of Route 20 and a sidewalk on the north. Additionally, there would be improvements to the traffic signal at the Green and South intersection.

Further, drivers heading eastbound on South would only be able to take left turns. 

This plan would construct two roundabouts – one at the Valente Drive intersection and a second near Lumber Liquidators. MassDOT is also proposing to construct a raised median.

The other option would also install a shared-use path and sidewalk. However, it would add a second eastbound travel lane and left turn lanes at specific intersections in the western portion of the corridor. 

This version also called for improving the South and Green traffic signal and installing a new light at Valente Drive and a connector road between Walnut Street and Valente Drive. It also proposed a right turn only for drivers heading south on South Street. Right turns only would be allowed for drivers going south on Walnut, but drivers could make both left and right turns if they were northbound on Walnut.

Frawley said MassDOT preferred the first option.

“MassDOT has selected [this option] based on several factors including, safety, the ability to address the purpose of the project and environmental considerations,” Frawley said. 

Next steps for the Route 20 project will include MassDOT creating the 25% design submission, which they anticipate will be submitted in the spring of 2023. 

Construction may begin in fall 2026. 

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