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Planning Board Signs Off On Plans For Wamesit Lanes, Traffic Still a Concern

Oct 01, 2014 01:16PM ● Published by Bill Gilman

Engineer Dick Cuoco and developer Donald MacLaren appeared before the Planning Board Monday night for a public hearing on the Wamesit Lanes project.

Donald MacLaren and his team have cleared another hurdle in their efforts to build Wamesit Lanes, but issues regarding increased traffic are still to be addressed.
On Monday, the Planning Board concluded a public hearing and unanimously approved a special permit and several waivers needed for the project to move forward. 
MacLaren plans to build a $12 million entertainment complex on Route 38 on the the 4.1 acre site of the former Motel Caswell. The 45,000 square foot complex will include a 36-lane, 10-pin bowling alley, a 4,000 square foot video arcade, golf simulators and a 140-seat restaurant. There will also be fire pits and courts for bocce.
MacLaren is hoping to be open for business by next summer.
The major topic of conversation Monday night centered around the additional traffic expected to be generated by Wamesit Lanes. Dick Cuoco, representing Cuoco & Cormier Engineering Associates, Inc., presented the board with a traffic study compiled by TEPP, LLC of Salem, NH. 
According to TEPP Principal Kim Eric Hazarvartian, traffic statistics were gathered at Brunswick Zone on Pentucket Boulevard in Lowell, a similar entertainment complex to the Wamesit Lanes project. Hazarvartian reported that during a peak hour on Thursday, Sept. 25, Brunswick generated 210 vehicle trips (in and out combined), while during a peak hour on Saturday, there were 102 vehicle trips.
Because Brunswick has 44 bowling lanes, Hazarvartian then prorated his statistics to estimate possible vehicle trips to be generated at the 36-lane Wamesit facility and came up with 172 on a Thursday and 83 on a Saturday.
Also in attendance at the hearing was Kevin Dandrade, principal at The Engineering Corp., who conducted a peer review of the traffic study on behalf of the town. While Dandrade said the Wamesit plans call for more than enough parking spaces to handle the potential number of customers, he expressed concerns that the methodology used in the traffic study didn't adequately address the issue of Wamesit's impact on Route 38 traffic.
"Overall, TEC finds that the traffic studies were not prepared in a manner that is consistent with Massachusetts Department of Transportation standards or industry guidelines," wrote Dandrade. "The current documentation does not include current traffic counts or capacity analysis in the vicinity of the (Wamesit Lanes) site."
Dandrade said, however, that MacLaren will be required to apply for a "Permit To Access State Highway" because of the major modifications being done on the site. At that time, the state will determine the overall impact on traffic and will decide if MacLaren has to pay for construction of a lefthand turn lane for drivers approaching Wamesit Lanes for Route 495.
"If that's something the state says we need to do, then that's what we'll do," said Cuoco. "We won't have a choice."
Planning Board member Nancy Reed expressed a great deal of concern about the need to mitigate the increased traffic and about the board conveying those concerns to the state.
"How do we convey to the state that we really, really need a left turn lane?" she asked. "If (a lane isn't added) it's going to get very, very bad around 5 p.m."
Dandrade said there is a standard protocol used by the state for looking at the addition of a left turn lane, part of which will be gathering current traffic data on Route 38. He added that the state values the input of local boards on issues like this and that the addition of 200 vehicle trips during a peak traffic hour will make them take a hard look at requiring the addition of a turn lane.


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