Select Board to discuss truck exclusions

Above: The presentation shows how class 5+ vehicles travel in town and options for revamping exclusions. (images LR from Federal Highway Administration and 8/9/22 meeting packet)

On Tuesday, the Select Board will hear recommendations for handling the problems caused by heavy trucks on Town roads.

Based on a VHB consultant’s presentation, the Board may consider swapping the truck exclusion on Route 30 for ones on five Southborough back roads – plus two more overnight exclusions.

For years, residents have complained about safety issues on Flagg Road. Last year, the Select Board received a renewed a request to exclude large trucks on the road.

The Board learned that under state regulations, doing that would require designating an alternate route that meets state criteria. That was complicated by the pre-existing exclusion on Route 30.

Some Main Street residents expressed concern about the impact that lifting an exclusion on Route 30 would have.

Rather than quickly making changes that could have domino effects, the Board decided to study how trucks travel throughout town. VHB Engineering, the consulting firm for Public Works, was commissioned to look at the data.

Special Town Meeting approved funding that last fall. Data was collected in March. Now the long awaited (and seemingly overdue) report is scheduled to be presented at tomorrow night’s Select Board meeting.

A presentation printed in the packet previews some key findings.

FHWA vehicle classifications- Heavy Vehicles highlighted in yellow boxVHB explains that HVEs (Heavy Vehicle Exclusions) are meant to apply to commercial vehicles with a carrying capacity greater than 2 ½ tons (vehicle classes 5-12, see image right). There are exceptions for those making deliveries on excluded streets or offshoots without alternative access. (Other exceptions are for public vehicles, ones owned by municipalities, or ones operated by utilities or for road construction.)

MassDOT will consider exclusions if HVs make up 5-8% of the road traffic OR the existing pavement structure/road condition is not suitable for heavy vehicles. (I think it is fair to assume that residents of Flagg Road and its offshoots would argue that the narrow road, narrowed even more in places by large trees, would qualify under the second condition.)

Towns can also apply for nighttime exclusions for residential neighborhoods. (According to MassDOT’s regulations, that only applies “during hours of darkness.”)

It appears the current Route 30 exclusions pre-dates regulation revisions in 1995 that made state numbered routes inligible for exclusions.

Based on their look at traffic volume/patterns and the state restrictions for exclusions and alternate routes, VHB found that the Select Board could “consider”:

  • finding from VHB presentationRemoving the HVE on Route 30
  • Seeking HVEs on:
    • Flagg Road
    • Deerfoot Road
    • Johnson Road
    • Oak Hill Road
    • Acre Bridge Road
  • Applying for overnight HVE’s on:
    • Oak Hill Road
    • Pine Hill Road

The analysis was based on data collected over 48 hours on an unspecified Wednesday and Thursday in March. Automatic Traffic Recorders were located at 12 locations and “Peak Hour Turning Movement Counts” were conducted at 9 locations. (You can find those locations in the agreement with VHB here.)

HV traffic patterns from VHB presentationAmong Town owned roads that don’t already have HVEs*, VHB’s study found that:

  • HVs make up over 5% of the traffic on Flagg and Parkerville roads
  • There are over 100 HV trips per day on Oak Hill Road
  • Southville Road was on both of the above lists

The presentation notes that the Board can also consider evaluating the existing signage for HVEs and monitoring traffic to identify changes in truck patterns.

You can see the entire presentation here. To attend the August 9th Select Board meeting (in person or over zoom) find the agenda and details here.

*Other roads listed with significant HV traffic already have exclusions and/or are state numbered routes.