Driving through the intersection of Atwood Avenue and Plainfield Pike can be a challenge due to the lack of directional signals. For motorists, improvements to the intersection are long overdue.
There soon will be a solution, however, to the daily cluster of cars attempting to make their way through the intersection. Robert Rocchio, managing engineer of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT), says the estimated $400,000 project to improve these roads would go out to bid in early 2013.
“Brand new traffic signals will be installed along with minor widening to three street corners to create left turn lanes,” Rocchio said. “Hopefully we will see a lot of congestion improvements and traffic delays should be minimized.”
Excluding the southeast corner, in order to widen the intersection, the state will acquire 599 square feet from property owners on the northwest corner, 223 square feet from the northeast corner and 410 square feet will come from two owners of the southwest corner.
The state must obtain the land from the owners in order to start construction. According to Rocchio, some land will be taken under eminent domain. This allows the state to seize private property without the owner’s consent to devote it to public or economic development.
Patriot Auto Center is located on the southwest corner and because of their limited space, about 5,700 square feet, the amount of land being taken will ultimately force the small business to close. The car lot is suited for roughly 15 cars and with the new construction underway, about four parking spots will be removed.
Owner of the auto center, Steven Lombardo, says a better design of the intersection is necessary but not at his business’ expense. He is pursuing compensation for the land, hopefully enough to keep his business afloat during construction.
“It’s a mess and needs to be widened for sure, at the very least new turn signals,” Lombardo said. “It is difficult to operate now. If they push my car lot back, it’s going to make it a substantial loss for me.”
There are a lot of close call collisions during peak hours of travel. In fact, Captain Marc Boisvert of the Johnston Police Department said there have been a total of nine accidents there in the past year. He says the idea is to make the intersection similar in design to that of Hartford and Atwood Avenues.
RIDOT is 90 percent finished with the design stage of the project, but there is no definitive start date because of pending funds and environmental permitting that needs to be completed. Rocchio says requests by the Town Council for reconstructing the intersection dates years back but there weren’t enough funds to complete the project.
“We wanted to do it [reconstruction], but we didn’t have the funds and it wasn’t the highest priority project,” Rocchio said. “We really want this to be prioritized and we now made a commitment to do it.”