April 7, 2021 by Carol Britton Meyer
Following more than 50 crashes at the dangerous Kilby Street/Rte. 3 intersection in the last five years -- many of them serious, including at least one fatality -- the Selectmen last night unanimously supported proposed major state-funded traffic improvements at that location upon the Traffic Committee's recommendation.
Intersection changes -- which could begin as soon as May and will take about a month to complete -- will include construction of median islands in Kilby Street on both sides of Rte. 3A and a new sidewalk on the west side of Kilby Street, wrapping around the corners and extending westward on 3A to provide a safe pedestrian crossing.
"The median islands will prevent left turns onto or out of Kilby Street [on both sides of Rte. 3A] and will prevent drivers from crossing 3A to continue on Kilby Street [in both directions]," Town Engineer J.R. Frey said. The changes will also eliminate the excessive cut-through traffic the neighborhood is currently experiencing, including large trucks.
The new crosswalk with be semi-signalized, with blinking lights to indicate to oncoming traffic that a pedestrian is attempting to cross the roadway once the person attempting to cross has activated the signal. Signage will be installed to avoid confusion about the changes.
Several neighbors from among the 40 remote meeting participants spoke in favor of the proposed improvements before a vote was taken. No one spoke against them.
Lifelong Kilby Street resident Keith Jermyn expressed full support for the project. "This intersection is one of the biggest safety concerns in Hingham," he said.
While he and other neighbors will have to alter their driving patterns once the changes have been made, Jermyn said the positives far outweigh that inconvenience. "Change is difficult, but overall, we will all be safer," he said.
According to Traffic Sergeant Jeffrey Kilroy, there were four accidents at that intersection recently, involving injuries. The extremely high number of accidents and serious pedestrian safety issues warrant immediate action, town officials supporting the changes said.
Frey explained that the town is working with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to improve traffic safety conditions at the intersection of Chief Justice Cushing Highway (Route 3A) and Kilby Street.
"The intersection has a high incidence of crashes due to the geometry, speed, visibility, and the volume of traffic crossing 3A on Kilby Street," he explained. "It's also unsafe for pedestrians, with a very long exposed crossing of 3A that does not offer sufficient visibility for approaching drivers or pedestrians intending to cross." The speed limit along that stretch is 45 m.p.h.
In recommending these changes, the Traffic Committee pointed to the immediate improvements in traffic and pedestrian safety that would benefit Hingham residents at no cost to the town once the project is completed because the state owns Rte. 3A and MassDOT recommended the improvements following an engineering study of the intersection.
"These changes will greatly increase the safety of our neighborhood, which has many families with children -- at [the state's expense]," Jermyn said. "It's a win-win for everyone."
Frey pointed out that the proposed traffic control improvements don't block access to Kilby Street, but rather "prevent certain traffic movements -- notably, left turns and Kilby Street through-traffic, which [currently] present high-hazard traffic conditions."
He further noted that Kilby Street is not the only direct connection between East Street (Rte. 228) and Rockland Street. "Summer Street is a direct connection to the beginning of Rockland Street, and Rte. 228 continues until it intersects Rockland Street; both streets cross Route 3A at signalized intersections," Frey said.
Emergency vehicle access to Kilby Street will not be impacted, according to Frey, because the installed curb will be mountable by emergency vehicles, "resulting in no reduction in response times."