PEPPERELL -- Railroad Square can be a busy place with a confusing pattern for motor vehicles, head-in angled parking and a rail trail crossing.

While there are not many accidents, there are many near misses, said Police Chief David Scott.

In a project that been years in the making, the intersection of Main and Groton streets and the offset Railroad Street is getting a make-over.

The intersections just doesn't meet many of the best practices for road design, said Ken Kalinowski, director of the Department of Public Works and a civil engineer.

"There is no silver bullet for this intersection," he said. "We decided we had to do something."

The Public Safety Committee reviewed a plan prepared by the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments that included head-in angled parking. Using this and the combined knowledge of its members, they came up with a plan that might be called minimally invasive.

"It's to keep somebody from getting killed," Shattuck said.

The wide road was narrowed in parts, mostly with paint. No property was taken.

New sidewalks and relocated crosswalks will increase pedestrian safety.

New pavement covers the surface, something that was 17 years overdue. The road never got a topcoat after the drainage was updated from clay pipes to concrete in the late 1990s.

A business owner told Kalinowski how nice it was that the curbs were no longer so high. The new pavement raised the road surface making it easier to step up to the sidewalk.


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A small island with a stop sign sits in the middle of Main Street where it ends at Groton Street. The slanted curb allows plows to roll over the island if needed.

Trucks have no problem, he said. He has already watched some go through.

Another stop sign on the same side of Main Street is placed so that drivers can see where the rail trail crosses.

The stop sign on the downhill side of Groton Street was moved closer to the Main Street intersection, narrowing the entrance to Main Street slightly. Now, those drivers can more easily see the other vehicles in the road, Kalinowski said.

There have not been lots of accidents in the square, said Police Chief David Scott, but there have been lots of near misses.

Installing sidewalks along Groton Street between Railroad Street and Tarbell Street will slightly narrow the road and help slow traffic down, Kalinowski said.

One potential glitch in the project turned into a good thing.

Pepperell planned to hire the same curb setter that it hired for High Street, said Highway Superintendent Peter Shattuck. The contractor could do not do it.

Instead, they hired local. Babin Landscaping stepped up to the plate.

Not only were they less expensive per foot than the other curb setter, they had inside knowledge.

Knowing the DPW had a trove of cobblestones, they suggested using the stone to fill the island and area near the stop sign that instead of blacktop.

Breen's Diner took to Facebook. They raved about the new construction, a pathway leading through cobblestones to their door. They thanked "Peter S." for the needed facelift.

The highway department chipped away at the project over the summer, getting everything all ready for the pavers and curb setters. The pavers blasted through so quickly, they were even able to pave Railroad Street, Shattuck said.

By using town labor, the town saved money, Shattuck said.

Expenses were covered by Chapter 90 state aid, Kalinowski said. The final cost for the project is not available.

Main Street at Railroad Square is unusually wide. Trains were loaded and unloaded there, Kalinowski said.

Route 113 follows a convoluted path through the square. It goes down Main Street, 350 feet of Groton Street and then on Tarbell Street. Local folks know how to navigate the square, but it was not always obvious which vehicle was supposed to stop, Kalinowski said.

Once the lines are painted and the signs are installed, the traffic patterns should be clearer.

The work done this summer can be easily redone in the future if needed, Kalinowski said.

Earlier plans for the square would have been more disruptive.

At one point, there was even talk about removing the service station at the end of Main Street. Another called for running the road up the railroad bed to straighten it, Shattuck said.

The Nashua River Rail Trail on that rail bed was officially opened in 2002.

Follow Anne O'Connor on Twitter @a1oconnor.