Route 28 roundabout: Milton residents, officials say no, but state says yes
by Lance Reynolds, Boston Herald
The town of Milton has made its stance clear regarding ways to address safety on what MassDOT has declared as the most dangerous intersection in the state.
Residents and officials don’t want the state to go forward with its plans of implementing a roundabout at the intersection of Route 28, or Randolph Avenue, and Chickatawbut Road, which serves as a gateway into Blue Hills Reservation.
Instead, the town wants state transportation officials to turn to what they say would be short-term improvements, such as adjusting signal timing or incorporating left-hand turn signals.
But even after recent letters from Sen. Walter Timilty and the Select Board that requested the state make such considerations, the Department of Transportation is not budging.
“We have evaluated several options and have held numerous meetings with the town, stakeholders, and abutters,” MassDOT spokesperson Jacquelyn Goddard said in an email to the Herald on Friday. “Although we appreciate that a roundabout has impacts to abutting property and will be a change for everyday users of the roadway, it provides a level of safety that is superior to other options evaluated.”
The estimated $7.2 million project, state officials say, seeks to replace the intersection with a roundabout “to reduce the likelihood of fatal and injury crashes, but those in Milton say the project could very likely accomplish the opposite
Residents and state officials agree that the intersection is characterized by high vehicle speeds, congestion and a lack of safe access for pedestrians and cyclists. Between 2018 and 2020, the state reported 62 crashes in the area, four involving fatalities or serious injuries, according to MassDOT’s top crash location map.
The map ranks the intersection as the most dangerous in the state.
Most of these crashes involved vehicles turning left-turning from Route 28 onto Chickatawbut Road crashing into Route 28 through traffic,” state transportation officials wrote in a handout advertising a community meeting held last October.
That’s why Milton officials and residents say they are adamant about incorporating left-hand turn signals as a key short-term improvement. A visit to the intersection Saturday found that the traffic light does have a left-hand turn signal, but Timilty says he has never seen it used.
The intersection provides vehicle access between Milton, Randolph, and Quincy and to Interstate-93.
“Thousands upon thousands of citizens from throughout the Commonwealth traverse this road. It’s not just Milton folks. This is a public safety issue for the entire Commonwealth,” Timilty said Friday, shortly after sending a letter to Transportation Secretary Gina Fiandaca.
A home rule petition that Timility proposed to lower the speed limit on the road to 25 miles per hour received widespread approval from the Senate and House the past two legislative sessions. However, Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed it, without explaining the reasoning for it before he left office, a decision Timilty called “horrible.”
This year, Timilty has refiled the measure as a proposed bill, not a home rule petition.
“I don’t believe the Healey-Driscoll Administration will veto something of that nature,” the senator said.
Timilty also is requesting the state budget allocate $20,000 to the Milton police department for dedicated speed prevention patrols on Route 28.
State officials anticipate project designer Howard Stein Hudson to complete the permitting process and submit a 100% design by November, with construction to start next spring.
Randolph Avenue resident Roseanne Spring said she believes those who are designing the roundabout should travel the road frequently and have had some prior knowledge of the intersection before being selected.
“Already at night, traffic can back up to where you get off of Route 128 onto 28,” Spring said as she visited the intersection Saturday, “but if there’s a rotary here and it’s jammed, now you’re going to cause traffic to be stopped on the highways. It needs to be looked at holistically, not monolithically. Someone needs to listen.”
MassDOT is also conducting a study of the Route 28 corridor, but officials say results will not impact conditions at the intersection. The analysis is expected to be done by next June.
Select Board Chairman Michael Zullas is suggesting the study be done before the roundabout’s design is completed. In its letter to MassDOT dated July 6, the Select Board requested state officials to visit the intersection, but Zullas told the Herald he had not received a response as of Friday.
“There is a disproportionate effect on our residents, and the number one thing is we are concerned about the safety of this area,” Zullas said. “We are concerned about the amount of time it has taken and will continue to take to address it.”