Kelley Square Redesign Causes Conflict Among Worcester Residents

By Sarah Ardolino:

“My first memory of Kelley Square was driving through it without ever hearing about it and my mind was absolutely melted. Like who the hell thought this was okay?” said Luke Orlando, junior at Assumption College. Kelley Square is an intersection located near the Canal District in Worcester, MA. It is notorious for being both dangerous and chaotic, as five streets and two highway exits dump cars into one crazy intersection. There seemingly is no rhythm nor reason on how to go through Kelley Square; it is a free-for-all situation. Orlando stated, “It feels like the Wild West with cars weaving through each other and there are no rules.” With 294 total crashes reported from 2013 to 2015, the Kelley Square intersection is high on the list for the most accidents reported in the state of Massachusetts.

For most people, driving through Kelley Square can be a nightmare. However, Dudley, MA native and Assumption College junior, Kate French, is less scared to drive through the round-about after some practice. She stated, “I think Kelley Square is a hectic place to drive, but anyone who’s driven through it a few times probably feels they can get by without an issue. The lack of lanes or traffic lights can certainly create confusion among drivers though.”

MassDOT announced in December of 2018 a design concept they felt comfortable moving forward with: a ‘peanut’ shaped intersection equipped with bicycle and pedestrian walkways. It is set to go under construction in the fall of 2019 and be finished in advanced before the opening of the nearby Worcester Red Sox Stadium in 2021. This redesign will hopefully make it easier for locals and non-locals coming to see the Worcester Red Sox to navigate.

“The peanut-shaped roundabout will have two lanes and keep cars moving in one direction around Kelley Square. Construction costs are estimated at $14 million, funded with a combination of money from the Federal Highway Administration and the state.” Hanson wrote for MassLive. Left-hand turns will be eliminated from the intersection, crosswalks lengths will be shortened, and a pedestrian and bicycle path will be added. In addition, “Changes that come with the design include…the elimination of some on-street parking and reversing the direction of one-way traffic on Millbury Street and Harding Street south. The reversal of those streets will also create the need for a small roundabout where Millbury and Harding streets intersect with Arwick Avenue.

Wednesday, Feburary 27th 2019, MassDOT presented their 25 percent design plan on the “peanut” shaped intersection. The design team has received some criticism, along with some positive feedback, from Worcester locals at the Wednesday hearing. Many believe Kelley Square should remain and function the same way it does currently. Others are nervous about the introduction of the bikeways. French stated, “Although the redesign is being planned with safety as a priority, I think that some of the changes may seem inconvenient to residents that already feel comfortable safely navigating Kelley square. With left turns being eliminated and pedestrian traffic not being encouraged, the design might need an overhaul before it becomes a practical solution.”

Others are concerned about driving habits and the result of changing the directions of Millbury Street and Harding Street. Glenn Ford said for MassLive, “[Drivers] will go back on their own habit and enter the road in the wrong direction.”

Assumption College junior, Lily Sheahan, believes that the redesign will be a good thing for the city of Worcester. She stated, “I hate driving through Kelley Square; I try to avoid it at all costs. The new design will be great for me because I wouldn’t have to figure out a way to drive around it anymore.”

Whether for or against the revitalization of Kelley Square, construction is set for October 2019.

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