Amherst council approves roundabout for Pomeroy village center

  • Amherst Town Hall

Staff Writer
Monday, June 07, 2021

AMHERST — A roundabout will replace a signalized intersection in the Pomeroy village center in South Amherst as part of a $1.5 million construction project.

After extensive discussion and input from residents and business owners, the Town Council last week, in a 10-0 vote with three abstentions, advised the Department of Public Works to proceed with a single-lane roundabout at the intersection of West Street/ Route 116, Pomeroy Lane and West Pomeroy Lane.

“The research is pretty conclusive on this that roundabouts are better for traffic calming, they’re better for pedestrian safety, they’re better for bicycle safety,” said District 4 Councilor Evan Ross in outlining why he is supporting the project.

Funded through the MassWorks Infrastructure Grant program, the project to replace the traffic signals, first installed by the town in 2004, would begin next spring. The project could also extend and improve sidewalks in the village center, where there is a mix of businesses, apartments, a school and child care centers.

Ross, who serves on the Town Services and Outreach Committee of the Town Council, said community feedback showed that everyone is interested in making the village center safer for people walking and biking, especially on the state highway.

The council’s vote allows it to review the so-called 25% and 75% designs to make sure that no issues crop up, and likely will offer continued opportunity for oversight by the Disability Access Advisory Committee and Transportation Advisory Committee.

District 5 Councilor Darcy DuMont, who represents the Pomeroy village center part of town, said she got a lot of negative feedback on the roundabout from her constituents, but voted in favor because a report from the Franklin County Regional Council of Governments stated that people with negative views of these projects often react favorably once they are in operation.

“I want to show confidence in our Transportation Advisory Committee recommendation,” DuMont said. “I trust it. They put a lot of hard work into it.”

The proximity to the Amherst Montessori School and other spaces for young children prompted two councilors to abstain from the vote.

District 1 Councilor Cathy Schoen and District 3 Councilor Dorothy Pam, who were joined by District 1 Councilor Sarah Swartz in abstaining, both worried that children and bicyclists would have trouble with a roundabout.

“The interaction with pedestrians and children is not a good mix,” Schoen said.

“I still think roundabouts are very difficult for children and people on bicycles to do, and there’s a lot of children’s activity that goes on in that area,” Pam said.

DPW Superintendent Guilford Mooring said work already done includes a draft survey of the land and basic traffic counts, but the town will also need to learn what impacts a roundabout will have on nearby properties. The roundabout will have light beacons for pedestrians that will give voice alerts so they know when it is safe to cross.

District 3 Councilor Pat DeAngelis said maintaining these will be important.

“We have a way of loosening our maintenance standards once things are created, so I’m concerned about that,” DeAngelis said.