NORTHAMPTON, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- A Western Mass News viewer reached out to our newsroom with concerns about a new traffic pattern in his community.
Belchertown resident Jeff Weeks travels to Easthampton often to visit his children, but in order to do that, he has to go through the newly constructed Interchange 91 roundabout.
"I think it was a mistake,” Weeks said .
The area of the roundabout connects multiple communities, including the college town of Amherst. It's also part of an Interstate 91 exit.
Weeks said the Massachusetts Department of Transportation came in a few years ago to get feedback about the traffic in the area. He said he gave his input at those meetings and was disappointed to see the state choose to install a roundabout despite the community's concerns.
"The most obvious solution to a bridge that's too small is either enlarging the bridge or a second bridge. For some reason, the state isn't interested in a second bridge,” Weeks added.
Weeks told us he wanted to know why the state chose to follow through with the roundabout, so we spent more than a month consistently reaching out to the state for some answers.
Western Mass News obtained a statement from a MassDOT representative who said during the design phase for the Interchange 19 project area, they formed an advisory committee that consisted of state and elected officials, representatives from local colleges, local residents, and more. That committee chose the roundabout because it would:
- Improve traffic operations at I-91 interchange 19 by addressing capacity deficiencies at intersections on Route 9 and Damon Road
- Improve access to and from I-91 at the existing interchange
- Reduce crash levels within the immediate vicinity of the interchange
- Adequately prepare for currently projected growth and related transportation needs within the effective design life of the facility
However, Weeks doesn't agree. He said with colleges back on campus, there's more traffic than ever in the area and he's also worried about emergency response times.
"Coming over the bridge, the ambulances, which makes thousands of trips a year, are now going to have to fight through an almost closed intersection…I've talked to several ambulance crews that said this is going to be a nightmare,” Weeks noted.