Just when you imagined work has been completed at the Apponaug Circulator, don’t be surprised to find workers back. This time they’ll be taking down many of the signs they erected in the last several months, plus adding some new ones.
The latest effort, which could happen this winter, is aimed at reducing driver indecision.
When asked Tuesday when the $71 million circulator project would be completed, State Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti said the department is looking at improving signage. First off, Alviti thinks the system of five roundabouts has too many signs. Second, he believes motorists unfamiliar with the circulator and the area can easily become confused as to how to get to where they want to go. Once in the pattern they don’t remember, if they even saw it, earlier signage. They’re not sure what to do.
To address this problem, Alviti said the plan calls for repetitive signage. For instance, drivers traveling east on Centerville Road with the intention of going toward East Greenwich would find a direction sign prior to entering the roundabout at Toll Gate Road and Veterans Memorial Drive. That sign would be repeated in the roundabout and again at the next roundabout.
“We’re going to try to make people make better decisions going into it [the circulator],” he said.
Those who know the circulator seem to either love or hate it.
Malcolm Rydberg doesn’t have any problem navigating the system. It’s the other motorists who worry him. Rydberg has heard of accidents and doubts they will subside until the DOT restores traffic signals, which he believes will come.
According to records, Warwick police responded to 12 accidents within the circulator system during November.
In addition to concerns over accidents, Rydberg is mystified by changes to Post Road through the village center designed to make it “pedestrian friendly.” Traffic has been narrowed to a single lane with the addition of a bicycle lane and wider sidewalks. What has Rydberg questioning is the bump out in front of City Hall that puts the sidewalk level with the road. He thinks that could be a hazard to pedestrians and motorists.
Lauren Slocum, president and CEO of the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, with offices across from City Hall, has followed the project from its inception.
“It felt like it was never going to happen,” she said Wednesday, recalling the multiple meetings and planning sessions relating to the project. Now, she notes, it seems like it’s all been completed in hardly any time, although, for village businesses, not to mention the more than 24,000 motorists who travel through Apponaug daily, the construction was interminable.
Slocum served on a committee that interfaced with the city and state throughout the process and is in tune with the community.
“They’re more positive than negative now,” she said of the feedback she’s gotten. “There were people who said, ‘It’s never going to work’ and are now saying ‘It’s easy; that wasn’t bad.’”
Nonetheless, she feels there’s room for improvements, especially after watching motorists going the wrong way in roundabouts or on Post Road (she saw three occurrences last week). She agrees with Alviti that consistent signage would be helpful.
A suggestion she’s heard and thinks would work is for additional painted street arrows prior to entering roundabouts that would clue motorists to the lane they need to be in. Those arrows are close to roundabouts, which make it difficult to choose the proper lane if there is traffic.
Slocum is also using the chamber website to educate people on the circulator and what to do, for instance, if there is an emergency vehicle on call in a roundabout. In that case, she said, “don’t stop, but exit the roundabout as soon as possible and pull to the side of the road.”
“More clarification will help,” she said of signage, adding, “people just need to be patient.”
It is also going to take patience and investment from the private sector before the vision of a revived Apponaug Village is reality. For that to happen, Slocum said the village needs to attract different types of business that will foster walking “and a character and charm.” She’s optimistic.
“There’s definitely less traffic. It’s slower with the bump outs and I see people waving. There’s more interaction because they’re going slower,” she said.
Wider sidewalks have helped and Slocum reports, with some surprise, she’s even seen cyclists using the bike lane. She said she and members of the committee were surprised by the blue planters lining Post Road.
“We were thinking we were going to get trees,” she said.
She said she’s been assured that the planters will provide green relief to the concrete and asphalt.
“I hope it really looks beautiful when it’s all in bloom,” she said.