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Vision Zero

New Roundabout Curbs Crashes In Worcester’s Kelley Square

The newly rebuilt Kelley Square from above, pictured in early 2021. Photo courtesy of MassDOT.

State crash data suggest that the redesign of Kelley Square in Worcester has coincided with a significant decrease in the amount of traffic violence in the vicinity, even as traffic volumes have surged from the city's recovery from the pandemic and from the opening of a new baseball stadium nearby.

According to the MassDOT IMPACT crash data portal, during the first 6 months of 2021, 7 crashes occurred within a 270-foot radius from the center of the new "peanut" roundabout (pictured above).

By contrast, during the first 6 months of 2019, just before major construction began to reconfigure Kelley Square, there were 18 crashes in the same area, including at least five that resulted in non-fatal injuries.

During the first 6 months of 2018, there were 19 crashes in the area.

Data courtesy of MassDOT.
Data courtesy of MassDOT.
Data courtesy of MassDOT.

During the same period of 2020, there were only four crashes in the same area. But pandemic-related lockdowns, which diminished the number of cars on the roads, combined with the presence of construction activity in the area, which encouraged drivers to seek alternate routes, are likely responsible for last year's low numbers.

By January 2021, though, construction on the new Kelley Square was mostly complete, and according to MassDOT officials, traffic volumes have rebounded from last year's lockdowns.

"Traffic counts were performed in early June 2021 on Madison Street just west of Kelley Square, and volumes are about 30 percent higher than in late June 2018," wrote Kristen Pennucci, MassDOT's Communications Director, in response to a Streetsblog inquiry about the crash data.

Pennucci noted that Worcester Red Sox games likely increased the June traffic counts. But in April, before the baseball season began, MassDOT also counted traffic at the nearby I-290/Vernon Street interchange just south of Kelley Square, and found that there, too, traffic volumes were higher than pre-pandemic measurements from 2018.

"The design of the hybrid roundabout at Kelley Square included several features that MassDOT anticipated would lessen the number and potential severity of crashes that could occur at the intersection," wrote Pennucci, including shortened crosswalks and a reduction in the number of potential conflict points. "Like all roundabouts, Kelley Square was designed to slow speeds on the approach which provides motorists with more time to react to a potential conflict and avoid a collision."

Pennucci says that MassDOT is still evaluating crash data from the area to analyze crash patterns from before and after the project's completion.

But the early results seem to provide stark evidence that crashes aren't "accidents," and that road designs that focus on reducing speeds have significant benefits for public safety.

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