Local Government and Politics, News

Swampscott’s Vinnin Square to undergo $2M in safety upgrades

MassDOT is in the design phase for Intersection & Signal Improvements for Paradise Road in Swampscott’s Vinnin Square. (Spenser R. Hasak)

SWAMPSCOTT — It could be a lot safer for pedestrians and motorists at Vinnin Square after the state’s $2 million roadway project is complete. 

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation project includes safety enhancements for the intersection at Paradise Road (Route 1A) and the Swampscott Mall, said MassDOT spokesman Patrick Marvin. 

Pete Kane, Swampscott’s former director of community development, submitted an application to the state after a fatal crash that took the life of a Marblehead high schooler more than seven years ago, said Gino Cresta, assistant town administrator of operations and DPW director.

“There has been at least one, possibly two fatalities down there,” said Cresta. “This project is long overdue. Our fire chief and police chief have been involved too. All three of us agree these improvements need to be made before there is another accident.”

Of the 1,848 crashes in Swampscott from 2008 through 2018, a total of 366 or nearly 20 percent were on Paradise Road. Five dozen occurred at the intersection of Paradise Road and the Swampscott Mall, and more than two dozen accidents happened at the mall’s entrance, according to MassDOT. 

Funded through the 2021 Transportation Improvement Program of the Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization, the project, with an estimated cost of about $2 million, is expected to begin work in the winter of 2020 or 2021, said Marvin. The work schedule will depend on numerous factors including project design, traffic management plans, work zone access and the progress of operations.

Upon completion, traffic signals will be constructed, traffic sign and pavement markings will be improved, there will be minor geometric improvements, and sidewalk and wheelchair ramps will be reconstructed. Swampscott Police Chief Ronald Madigan said the roadwork will begin at the intersection at the mall lights and go farther toward the Salem end of Paradise Road. 

“This will be very centered around pedestrians and improving access for them,” said Madigan.

In 2017, the Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization released a study of the Route 1A/Vinnin Square area that they conducted over a period of five years. They reported that in the early commercial and residential development years in Vinnin Square, traffic safety, congestion and mobility became challenging issues. 

The survey said there is a growing need to improve mobility for residents of the neighborhoods adjacent to Vinnin Square and to provide connections to enable them to access the mall and other destinations, such as recreational areas and schools.

“Paradise Road is way overdue for improvements,” said Madigan. “If you go down there you see that the pedestrian access and crosswalks all need to be brought up to date. Part of the project is to replace the signal lights and square off the intersection, such as cleaning up curbs and handicap access to crosswalks. Also in the plan is to put some warning devices where it extends down to the crosswalk by Santander Bank, toward Salem.”

MassDOT will host a design public hearing at Town Hall at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 8. Their purpose is to get Swampscott residents fully acquainted with the proposed project.

Thomas Grillo contributed to this report. He can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com

Bella diGrazia can be reached at bdigrazia@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BelladiGrazia.

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