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Targeting Traffic on a Busy Twin Cities Link

August 4, 2018

A new study commissioned by the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission will monitor traffic along South Street and Merriam Avenue at the Fitchburg-Leominster line. SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE / PETER JASINSKI Sentinel and Enterprise staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

LEOMINSTER -- With the corridor of Merriam Avenue to South Street in Fitchburg being one of the few roadways linking the two cities, and among the most frequently traveled, a new study has been commissioned to find ways to relieve congestion.

The study now underway, commissioned by the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission, will monitor the number of vehicles traveling between the two cities, determine peak traffic hours, and record which other streets the most drivers are turning onto from Merriam Avenue or South Street.

As Brad Harris, transportation project director for the MRPC, explained, the study was requested as part of the commission’s obligation to find ways to address local factors in climate change. The MRPC is partially funded through the state Department of Transportation, which requires the commission to find ways to reduce traffic congestion, which produces the emissions that contribute to climate change.

“In our region, we don’t have shorelines or a lot of beaches, but we do have congestion areas,” said Harris. “Seeing what the causes are, we could come up with recommendations for how to reduce delays, which in turn reduces carbon emissions from the vehicles.”

Harris said his hope is for the study to be completed by the end of September.

Though the close proximity of businesses and houses does limit the changes that can be made, Harris said there are options for reducing the traffic on Merriam Avenue and South Street.

“It would depend on the willingness of MassDOT and the cities to put changes through. One limiting factor is the bridge over Route 2. There’s always the option to widen it, but it would affect some of the businesses in the plaza,” he said. “Things can be done, but it depends on the cost.”

Harris also said Merriam Avenue could be widened or the traffic lights at the intersection of South Street, Merriam Avenue and Whalon Street could be changed so they better monitor traffic flow and make sure vehicles aren’t stopped longer than they need to be.

Other areas of congestion the MRPC is considering studying are Route 13 near the Route 2 exit in north Leominster, Main Street in downtown Ayer, and certain sections of Route 119 in Groton.

“We chose this one first because it’s a consistent one,” Harris said. “It’s one where by 3 or 4 o’ clock there’s a line of traffic and some days it moves slower than others.”

Follow Peter Jasinski on Twitter @PeterJasinski53.

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