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I-Team: What is the state’s plan to make Route 20 safer?

Hampden County

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP)–One month ago, a driver was killed in a head on collision on Route 20 in West Springfield. 22News I-Team Reporter Mike Masciadrelli looked into the crashes on this highway, and found out what’s being done to keep this from happening again.

West Springfield’s mayor, Will Reichelt, believes Route 20 needs to be redesigned. “If you take your eyes off the road, and you drift over that line and there’s a car coming the other way. We’ve seen what happens,” remarked Reichelt.

This stretch of Route 20 at the West Springfield/Westfield city line has been the site of numerous crashes over the years. Last month, a 25 year old West Springfield driver died after his car crossed the yellow lines into the path of an oncoming vehicle on Route 20, near the Westfield city line.

The 22News I-Team obtained crash data on Route 20 from the West Springfield Police Department. In the last 10 years, there have been more than one thousand crashes on this highway, twelve of them deadly.

All of the statistics reflect total amount of accidents on Rt. 20/Westfield Street:
Number of reported accidents during the Big E- 9/13/2019-9/30/2019: Total 10
Number of accidents the past year 2018-2019: 150
Number of accidents 5 years ago during the Big E- 9/12/2014-9/28/2014: Total 6
Number of accidents for 9/12/13-9/28/2014: 102
Number of fatalities the past year: 1
Number of fatalities the past 5 years: 4

Additional accident numbers:
Total number of accidents the past 5 years on Rt 20: 473, 9 involving pedestrians and 7 involving bicyclists.
Total number of accidents the past 10 years on Rt. 20: 1034, with 12 fatalities, 19 pedestrian and 8 bicyclist.

Route 20 is a state-owned highway with two lanes in each direction, but the speed limit is only 40 miles per hour. Many of the crashes on this highway have taken place right here at this sweeping curve. Police blame most of them on speeding and distracted drivers.

There are signs along Route 20 that use radar to track drivers’ speed. But if police aren’t there on the highway, drivers often will go way faster than 40 miles per hour.

“We try to have more police out there when we can. Westfield does as well. But we can’t have them there all the time,” said Reichelt.

Mayor Reichelt said he’s asked the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission to complete another study of Route 20. The study will look at how to redesign the highway, to make it safer for drivers, and accommodate bicyclists.

“Back when this was done in 1999, there was no talk of ‘complete streets’ having bike lines, buffered bike lanes off the street and having ‘road diets’ to take four lanes and bring them down to 3 with a center turning lane, to create a road that naturally discourages speeding,” explained the mayor.

MassDOT told the 22News I-Team they’ll be implementing short-term improvements to Route 20 this month, which include installing larger speed limit signs and making the traffic lights more visible.

Mayor Reichelt said it’ll take a year for the PVPC to complete the Route 20 study.He’s counting on the state to make further improvements using the study’s recommendations.

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