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A Hummel Report Investigation

A Big Learning Curve

It has been a bumpy transition as the Apponaug Circulator gradually changes over to a series of roundabout intersections: traffic snarls, continued problems with dust and debris and a Hummel Report investigation that found more than 100 accidents since November have some wondering if the new traffic patterns will actually solve the area’s longtime congestion problems. This week we hear from a leading critic of the project - and the director of the Rhode Island D.O.T., who admits there has been a learning curve for motorists.

SCRIPT

The signs may say Welcome to Apponaug, but for drivers trying to negotiate the new $71-million circulator of late, it has been more challenging than welcoming.
Take any weekday afternoon at rush hour and the traffic is likely to look like this: Backed up well onto feeder roads, with some people giving up altogether and seeking an alternate route.
In the six months since the Rhode Island Department of Transportation reached its first major milestone - opening two-way traffic along major stretches of the circulator - Apponaug has been a Land of Confusion for many.
Cote:  ``The Apponaug circulator is a very dangerous place to navigate.’’
Rob Cote travels in and around Apponaug up to half a dozen times a day. For 25 years Cote has worked throughout New England in the construction industry as a quality assurance manager. We first interviewed him in the fall of 2015 about what Cote says were code and contract violations during construction.
We met with him last month for an update on functionality.
Cote: ``This was engineered and designed specifically to avoid accidents and to move the traffic faster through that area.’’
Hummel: ``And what’s happened?’’
Cote: ``The number of accidents has increased, maybe tenfold?’’
So what do the statistics say?
There have been more than 100 accidents in the five major intersections, including four circulators, between Nov. 1st, 2016 and the end of April. It took the Warwick Police Department four hours to pull all of the reports - 452 pages, detailing 101 accidents - that we asked for in an Access to Public Records Request at the beginning of last month.
We reviewed dozens of reports that had a familiar narrative. Drivers unsure of who needed to yield to whom and confused about which lane to be in with decisions to be made in a short period of time. The worst intersection? This one, where Greenwich Avenue, Veterans Memorial and the Vets extension all intersect. The reports show 72 accidents at that roundabout alone in six months - none serious, mainly fender-benders.
Warwick Police Chief Stephen McCartney tells The Hummel Report it is impossible to compare the number of accidents before and after construction because the intersections are totally different. When the project is largely completed this fall, there will be a total of five roundabouts - what we used to call rotaries - spread across the 34-acre site. The chief acknowledges, though, there has been an unusually high number of accidents over the past six months, as the reports his officers take indicate.

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