Lily Palframan is concerned about the quality of roads in North Attleborough.
As a mother of a young child, Palframan said she worries about potholes and gaps that could cause her to bump and rattle her infant in their stroller when they go on walks. She is also alarmed by the lack of signals at crosswalks on South Washington Street to stop cars from potentially running over a pedestrian.
“If there are cars parked along the street, it’s hard for pedestrians to cross because oncoming cars may not see them waiting to cross,” Palframan said. “There’s a big bump on the sidewalk in front of Sharon C.U. that I get stuck in with my stroller every time.”
Palframan is just one of many who live in or around town that have complained about the infrastructure of the roads.
The topic of road infrastructure is prominent, whether at Town Hall meetings or on Facebook groups. For many, their biggest problem is the number of potholes that are seen in areas with heavy traffic.
David Volkin said areas with curves, such as Draper and Hoppin Hillavenues have led to increased risks of damaging vehicles or accidents that involve pedestrians and cyclists. He said there needs to be urgency to fill in the potholes to prevent accidents.
“With avenues like Hoppin Hill, which is part of the Pan Mass Challenge course, you get a lot of bicyclists,” Volkin said. “Those potholes are a serious hazard both for swerving cars and for people on bikes.”
Jodie Burns, who also lives in town, said taxpayers could face financial burdens if a pothole damages their vehicle.
“Hitting a pothole because you can’t avoid it could lead to a blown tire, messed up alignment and suspension and many other issues, all costing residents hundreds of dollars to repair,” Burns said. “Having to repair your car because of roads that should be properly maintained and aren’t, isn’t fair to anyone.
Other residents, such as JJ Ferreria, said the lack of improvements could lead to damages caused by weather-related events.
“Slow repaving of roads on hills is leading to serious erosion/undermining by water running under the road surfaces and, in the winter, ice expansion damage,” Ferreria said. “All of which is leading to even more rapid erosion and undermining that creates increasingly broken-up road surfaces and water damage to driveways and sidewalks.”
Why is it hard to maintain roads?
Mark Hollowell, the director of the Department of Public Works (DPW), said road maintenance has become challenging due to rising costs. He said asphalt, the main component used to pave roads, has risen in price from $65 a ton to $100 over the past three years. Additionally, the department has to pay contracts for pavers and other expenses throughout the year.
Hollowell said the department did receive an increase in the budget for fiscal year 2024, but projects such as the repaving of Allen Avenue will take time.
“it costs a lot and it takes a lot of time,” said Hollowell. It’s like a checklist.”
Town Manager Michael Borg said another problem with maintaining roads is what he described as “substandard funding” from the state. In Massachusetts, municipalities receive funding for road work under General Law Chapter 90.
Chapter 90 uses a formula that uses three factors—population, employment and road mileage to determine how much a town or city will receive. The preliminary estimate for North Attleborough for fiscal year 2024 is $786,704, a $912.20 increase from last year.
Borg described this increase as insignificant. He said legislatures on Beacon Hill needed to change the formula to give the town more funding to maintain the roads.
“They can change the formula,” Borg said. “Let’s do it.”
Understanding the problem and finding a solution
While town residents and officials share similar frustrations about road maintenance, some are looking for solutions. Hollowell said his department is working quickly to complete $3 million worth of projects in the summer and fall. These will be for roads used frequently, such as S. Washington Street and Landry Avenue.
“We have done quite a lot over the past few years to get our roads in better shape,” Hollowell said. ”Now we are going to tackle these roads that need a lot of maintenance.”
On the state level, state Rep. Adam Scanlon (D-North Attleborough) said he among the legislators looking into the Chapter 90 formula. Scanlon said he understands the need for more funding and has secured $5 million for traffic safety improvements on the intersection of Routes 106 and 152 on Kelley Boulevard.
“As a former municipal official, I know that this funding is a lifeline for many,” Scanlon said. “The local officials and I are all committed to working on this.”
Councilor Mark Gould said a possible solution would be for the town to pay for road maintenance. Gould, who said Chapter 90 funding was not enough, would like to see more money allocated towards road infrastructure, but this would require a change in the Town Charter.
“Unfortunately, the council is powerless,” Gould said. “If we change the charter to allow the council a voice in where money is allocated, that would certainly be more responsive to the needs of the people, such as roads that need fixing.”
As for Palframan, she thinks that simply having more crosswalk signals would be a way to improve roads.
“There could also be crossing signals at Route 1 and Draper Ave,” Palframan said. “There’s a crosswalk and sidewalks, but no crossing signals.”