The Apponaug Circulator, which has become known as the Apponator, still gets one of those green spots on the governor’s construction signs to let people know the project is on budget and on time.
Soon, although a precise date isn’t being made available by the Department of Transportation (DOT), those signs will be superfluous. The $71 million project, conceived decades ago to alleviate traffic congestion and give the village a pedestrian-friendly environment that will promote economic development, will be completed.
But will it work?
Col. Stephen McCartney had his doubts a couple of weeks ago when southbound traffic heading toward East Greenwich was reduced to a crawl at the Apponaug Four Corners roundabout. That slowed traffic at the Greenwich Avenue and Veterans Memorial Drive roundabout, which in turn backed up cars to the Toll Gate and Centerville Road roundabout. Like gears in an engine running out of steam, one roundabout after the next was turning slower and slower.
McCartney thought the issue could be the reduction from two to one lane at the Apponaug Four Corners roundabout. If that was the case, rectifying it could require a redesign of the Apponaug Four Corners roundabout along with more construction, more delays and more money.
The state DOT is saying, give it some time.
“We’re pretty much done with lane closures that is building up into other circles,” DOT spokesman Charles St. Martin said last week. Reviewing video footage of village traffic, St. Martin attributes most delays to lane closures and construction.
The remaining work on the project includes signage, landscaping and decorative lights. There could be some constriction of traffic with the sealing of crosswalks over the next couple of weeks. Signing off on the project requires a final inspection with Cardi Construction, the contractor and a punch list of items requiring attention. St. Martin thought that could happen in “the springtime,” although by now the heavy work is done.
St. Martin said the DOT would be erecting some “larger scale” signs with directions aimed at assisting the motorists unfamiliar with the system of five interlinked roundabouts. As an example, he said, there would be a sign directing Post Road traffic to West Shore Road.
As for whether the system has improved traffic flow through the village, St. Martin said the department sees a correlation between traffic on Route 95 and in Apponaug. He said when traffic slows on 95 there will be a corresponding increase in Apponaug traffic. While St. Martin couldn’t provide traffic counts, as they haven’t been completed, he feels conditions have improved overall.
“We were seeing heavier than usual backups, but that’s improved now,” he said. “The good news for drivers is that it’s pretty well done.”