Representatives from the State’s Department of Transportation presented preliminary road improvement plans to make the Baldwin Road and Route 34 intersection safer to a handful of residents and town officials at an informational meeting last month. The plan calls for installing new signal lights at the intersection and expanding the north- and south-bound turning lanes. As part of the project, signal cabinets at five existing traffic signals in Derby and six in Orange along Route 34 will be updated. Improvements are expected to begin in the spring of 2019 and be completed that fall at a cost of about $2 million. According to DOT representatives, 90 percent of the cost will be in paid with federal funds and 10 percent will be paid in state funds.
DOT project manager Nilesh Patel, P.E., said the state roads that are earmarked for improvements are determined using a formula that evaluates safety, volume and crash rate in an area. “The Baldwin Road intersection is a safety issue and a congestion issue,” he said. Between 2012 and 2014 there have been 20 crashes at this intersection, five of which resulted in personal injuries. Eleven of the crashes were due to vehicles turning left onto Route 34 from Baldwin Road.
The DOT plans to widen the existing eastbound turning lanes on Derby Avenue by using the median area and widen Baldwin Road to provide a separate left-turn lane and right-turn lane at the intersection with Route 34. A new traffic light at the intersection will stop traffic while drivers are turning into or out of Baldwin Road. The DOT expects to purchase up to 15 feet of property on Baldwin Road from Fieldview Farm to make the improvements.
Several ladies in the audience questioned the DOT’s decision to move forward with this project when, in their opinion, the intersection of Grassy Hill Road and Route 34 seems much more dangerous. Beechlawn Terrace resident Marianne Bauer wrote a letter to the DOT in 2012 about her concerns. “I’m disappointed that it’s been five years and nothing’s been done,” she said.
Patel reported the DOT is aware of residents’ concerns about the Grassy Hill intersection but said funding is allocated based on safety issues. “The funding goes to higher risk areas first,” he said.
Orange Police Chief Robert Gagne said the level of service at the Grassy Hill/Derby Avenue intersection is “not as good as we’d like it to be,” but there are less crashes there than at the Baldwin Road/Derby Avenue intersection. “Based on the accident history it’s not a safety issue; it’s a convenience and capacity issue,” Gagne said. “We certainly don’t want to see it become a safety issue but as of right now there’s not enough verified crash history data to initiate immediate upgrades. The state doesn’t have any money so it would need to be an immediate safety concern to come to the top of the hopper.”