NORTHBOROUGH, Mass. — Police Chief Mark Leahy recently wrote a letter to the state’s Department of Transportation (MassDOT) asking for help to improve the safety of the intersection of routes 9 and 20 in Northborough.
In his letter, addressed to District Highway Director Ronald E. Dionne, Leahy explained that this interchange has been the site of 81 collisions in the first half of 2012.
"While this has always been a high accident area, the impact of the new Northborough Crossing shopping complex and Avalon Northborough apartment community has sent these statistics skyrocketing," Leahy wrote.
Leahy said that, of those accidents, his department has investigated 28 that occurred at the top of the on-ramp from Route 20 to Route 9 West. Leahy said the stop sign and lack of acceleration ramp at this entrance makes driving difficult for many motorists — especially those who are not familiar with the area.
"These accidents are all rear-end collisions when people either don’t expect to encounter a stop sign at the top of an entrance ramp, or they stop properly, start to go and then hesitate and stop, only to be struck by the vehicle behind who thought they had departed," Leahy wrote. Six people have been injured in these collisions, he said.
Leahy said 23 similar incidents have been reported to his department after the fact.
Northborough police also have investigated eight collisions that occurred at the bottom of the off-ramp from Route 9 West to Route 20 West, all of which were rear-enders. Ten similar collisions were reported to the department after the fact. Finally, Leahy wrote that there were 12 more collisions in the past six months at the other ramps in the interchange.
He suggested adding an acceleration lane to the entrance to Route 9 West, calling it "our biggest problem, yet our most easily fixed." He said there is plenty of land available to fit such a lane without requiring too much clearing.
Leahy also suggested bringing the off-ramp to Route 20 West to a "T" and installing a traffic signal. He added that this might help with the general traffic flow as well.
Reached on Tuesday, Michael Verseckes, a public affairs representative from MassDOT, said the department will be reaching out to the Northborough police to discuss their concerns further.
"We would welcome the chance to discuss potential remedies to this interchange that could increase safety," Verseckes said.