By Marianne Apfelbaum
The twisted metal on the front end of a white pickup perched precariously in a ditch on Monday was the latest reminder to town officials of the growing problem at the intersection of Marshall Avenue and Leroy Road.
With the proliferation of businesses in that area, traffic has increased to the point that the town is looking at ways to improve safety that could include the addition of anything from strobe lights to a four way stop sign.
On Monday morning, a section of Marshall Avenue was closed to traffic for nearly three hours as the Williston Fire Department and hazardous materials crews tried to clean up the spilled diesel fuel from the collision of a tractor trailer and the Chevy pickup driven by Paul Gaboriault.
Gaboriault failed to stop at the stop sign and crashed into the fuel tank of a tractor-trailer driven by John French. Although there were no injuries, a visibly shaken Gaboriault had to crawl from the wreckage of his vehicle. According to Williston police officer Randy Tucker, who was at the scene, the pickup was a complete loss and the tractor-trailer sustained over $1,000 in damages. Officials fear even more serious accidents could occur if something isn’t done soon. “It’s a poorly designed intersection,” said Tucker. “There are an awful lot of accidents for such a small road.”
Williston police sergeant Bart Chamberlain said there have been at least seven recorded accidents, four with injuries, at the intersection since January. Indicating the problem is escalating, Tucker said it was the third accident he’d responded to in the area in just three weeks. “It’s a very high number compared to comparable intersections,” said Chamberlain. “It’s unusual as well because even accidents at Taft Corners frequently don’t have injuries.”
Area business owners share the concern of town safety officials. Frank DeAngelis, owner of Close To Home, moved his business to Marshall Avenue from Shelburne five weeks ago and has witnessed three accidents and several close calls. He is worried about the danger the road presents for his customers. “Someone’s gotta do something. There’s a blind corner with four lanes coming together, and people do speed here. There are lots of near misses…I hear lots of squeals,” he said. “I don’t want my customers to get hurt.”
The situation has led Williston Fire Chief Ken Morton to consult with town officials about solutions. Morton is preparing a summary of the accidents that have occurred that he will give to Town Manager Rick McGuire this week. “Certainly we need to do something more,” said Morton. “Everybody realizes that. The next step just hasn’t been decided yet.”
Morton said one solution is to make the existing markings at the intersection more noticeable. He said there are lots of options including anything from a four way stop sign rather than the current two way design, to a traffic light that includes blinking strobes.
Public Works Director Neil Boyden has been working on the area for some time. “Two or three months ago, we added stop bars, and double stop signs with orange flags on them,” said Boyden. “Unfortunately, the problem continues,” said Morton.
Just last week, Boyden hired a traffic consulting engineer to evaluate the intersection and come up with recommendations to improve the area further. “I hope to have the recommendations in a week or two,” said Boyden.
Help can’t come soon enough for some. Tom Zoller, who works at Trane on Leroy Road, emailed the Observer after the Monday accident to express his concern. He wrote, “The city seems to think that the problem is people not stopping at the stop signs, but my co-workers and I feel it is actually the blind intersection. Either way, the town must do something about this intersection before someone is killed.”