You’re driving north on a main thoroughfare in the city, toward an intersection where the road splits into a Y. The road you’re on continues to the right. You want to go left at the intersection. A car is coming from the north on the main roadway.
Do you stop before you bear left until the other car passes? Or do you bear left in front of it?
This isn’t a question on a driver’s test.
It’s a scenario that faces some drivers northbound on Mishawum Road who want to turn onto Forest Park Road.
Several residents who live close to that Y say the intersection is dangerous. The biggest problem, two residents told Woburn Patch, is knowing who has the right of way there. People who don’t know the area think it’s OK to bear left onto Forest Park Road in front of vehicles headed southbound on Mishawum Road, Mary Binks told Woburn Patch Friday afternoon.
But vehicles on Mishawum Road have the right of way, according to Binks, who said she has lived near the intersection for 17 years. So drivers bearing left onto Forest Park Road need to stop, she said, in the face of oncoming traffic.
A number of accidents have occurred at that intersection, Ward 4 Alderman Michael Anderson, and an area resident, told Woburn Patch. Anderson addressed the Traffic Commission on Jan. 19 about the intersection.
A traffic-calming idea
The city’s engineering department has come up with an idea to make the intersection safer, according to City Engineer John Corey, Jr. Tweak the layout of the intersection so drivers on Mishawum Road have to turn left, rather than bear left, on to Forest Park Road and to stop—completely—on Forest Park Road before pulling out onto Mishawum Road.
How? By adjusting the curve of Forest Park Road where the roads meet.
"It’s at the talking stage now, an idea,” Corey told Woburn Patch Monday.
Part of the problem, according to Anderson, is drivers speeding on Mishawum Road, down the hill just south of the intersection.
Police Traffic Bureau Sgt. Paul Tenney compiled some speed and crash statistics for Mishawum Road this past August. Of 6,800 vehicles on the road during a survey period, some 2,000 were traveling above the speed limit of 35 miles per hour, Tenney told Woburn Patch Monday. Most of the speeders were going less than 10 miles over the speed limit, he said.
As for accidents, seven have occurred in the area of the intersection, Tenney said, between January, 2008 and January, 2011. One, this past July, , he said.
After seven accidents and a fatality, “You have to ask, ‘Why?’” Tenney said, and come up with a traffic-calming solution.
Complicating the flow of traffic through the intersection, Anderson said, is that some drivers northbound on Mishawum Road heading toward Forest Park Road bear left too soon and cross the double yellow line on Mishawum Road.
In the opposite direction, drivers merging from Forest Park Road onto Mishawum Road don’t always obey the top sign at the intersection, Anderson said. The sign was moved about a month ago a little north on Forest Park Road to make it more visible, Tenney said.
“It would be generous,” according to Anderson, “to say there are lots of rolling stops [at that stop sign.]"
The question of safety at this intersection last arose in 2007, according to the minutes of the January Traffic Commission meeting. Neither a three-way stop sign at the intersection or a traffic light could be installed, according to the meeting minutes.
Any idea to modify the intersection must be approved, Corey said, by Mayor Scott Galvin and the Department of Public Works superintendent.
Funding might be available from state Chapter 90 money for road maintenance, Corey said.
When an intersection improvement plan is developed, Anderson said he would meet with area residents to get their feedback.
A similar adjustment was made to an intersection in north Woburn, Tenney said, at Traverse and Ward Streets. He said it calmed traffic there.
“Something’s got to happen,” Binks said, regarding improving the safety of the intersection at Mishawum and Forest Park roads. “We’re talking about saving lives.”