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RMV traffic 'no foreseeble problem'

August 25, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — Police records suggest having the Registry of Motor Vehicles downtown should have only a minimal impact on traffic in the area. The agency is slated to move into the Casaubon Center next month.

"There's no foreseeable problem," said Chief Daniel Charette. "… For the volume of traffic there [the number of accidents] is an extremely low percentage."

In the last five years, eight months, there have been a total of 14 accidents on Larochelle Way or at the intersections on either end, spread pretty evenly throughout the months. In part, Charette attributed that to "the physical characteristics" of the way itself — it's too short to get up much speed and has a "natural speed bump" at one point.

"You have to be going 4-5 mph to avoid ripping out the underside of your car," he said.

Town Manager Christopher Clark agreed, noting two area traffic and parking studies (in 2005 and 1993) found no major problems at that location. Central Street does get significant volume — 8,000 to 10,000 vehicles per day — so the Registry's projected 200-300 customers a day would add around 4 percent to that. But Clark said almost all of it would miss the street's peak flow time, which is 8:30 a.m. The agency doesn't open until 9 a.m.

The issue came up because Registrar Rachel Kaprielian emailed Clark recently inquiring about comments Charette made months ago regarding traffic in that area. On Wednesday, the town's Traffic Commission approved sending a letter to her containing the above data and other material — including the fact nearby parking can accommodate "in excess of 100 vehicles" and estimated average speed in the area is "in the 15-20 mph range."

"Based upon our review… we do not believe the proposed use of the facility will have an unduly adverse impact on vehicular volumes or safety," the commission's letter states. "We stand committed to monitor the situation and undertake whatever actions are deemed necessary and appropriate to address any public safety issues that may arise."

Charette said he didn't recall what he'd said to spark Kaprielian's concern. Kaprielian was probably referring to the following, which the chief told this paper in March: Comparing downtown to the old RMV site at Big Bunny, he observed the latter has at least four exits and a large parking lot, while Casaubon has just two "and both go to heavily-used roads." Charette said it would take "a month or more" to get good traffic counts on nearby roads "just to get a rough idea of what they're handling now."

Even as late as July, DPW Director Ken Kalinowski had expressed the probability the police might have traffic concerns, but speculated the department would "take a wait and see perspective." Essentially, that's what the department and commission is doing.

See Friday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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