Skip to content




HARVARD — Citing Ayer Road and its accident-prone intersections as a priority problem, public safety officials tasked by the selectmen with addressing traffic problems in town presented their recommendations to the board on Tuesday night.

The new traffic safety study group — comprised of police Chief Edward Denmark, Department of Public Works Director Richard Nota, fire Chief Robert Mignard and town administrator Paul Cohen — has been meeting for several months.

The group wants to hire a consultant to help identify the problems and find solutions for the Ayer Road corridor, a one-mile stretch of roadway from Route 2 to the Ayer town line that causes more than its share of traffic-related trouble.

The situation promises to worsen as developers continue building along the road, which has been altered over the years but is still inadequate to handle current volume. Traffic from Dunkin’ Donuts and the new Post Office already contribute to the problem, creating visibility, parking and pull-out/pull-in problems. And there is more traffic to come. The former Toreko site and the Harvard Plaza across the road are slated for development, although neither project has reached the permitting stage yet.

Other trouble spots along Ayer Road include the intersections at Old Mill, Lancaster County, Shaker and Poor Farm roads, Gebo and Myrick lanes and the “S” curve at Doe’s Corner.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, Johnson presented an overview of services his company provides, such as pulling information together, narrowing wide-frame vision into a workable design and coordinating components to create an action plan. The Cambridge-based firm, which employs more than 700 people in New England and 3,000 worldwide, has conducted similar studies across the country, said Johnson. His presentation included a simulated “fly-over” of the corridor, with key points numbered. The price tag for CDM’s services would be around $50,000, Johnson said.

Nota said Chapter 90 highway funds could be used to pay the consulting fee, since the town has some $650,000 available.

Selectman Scott Kimball said $50,000 seemed “exorbitant” for one mile of roadway, especially if the numbers from recent traffic counts already on file were used, such as those done by MassDevelopment and private developers. Cohen said a traffic count seemed to be in progress along Ayer Road “every time you look.” Johnson said he could use such existing traffic counts if they were no more than three years old.

Resident Deborah Skauen-Hinchliffe also questioned the fee. She asked if the job could be done for less and whether the project had gone out to bid. It had not, she was told. Nota, citing the firm’s reputation and expertise, explained that he has worked with CDM before (when he held a similar post in another town) and said he knows the company’s track record.

Concerned about dipping into Chapter 90 funds intended for road work, other board members asked about pending projects on the DPW to-do list. Long-term, Nota said, he had innovative ideas to save money by using relatively cheap new materials to preserve road surfaces and cut costs. For now, Littleton County Road, Old Littleton Road and Pinnacle Road are in “dire need” of work, he said.

Citing “context-sensitive” key points along the road, which curves and narrows and has no shoulder to speak of in most places, board members noted that any plan to improve the thoroughfare should also include better travel safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. The plan could also address responsible growth, Johnson said.

Selectman Lucy Wallace noted the new “mixed use/village” zoning laws, existing commercial and residential properties and related uses of the road. She suggested seeking grant funds to cover some of the project costs.

The selectmen voted to allocate up to $48,700 to pay CDM for a study of the Ayer Road corridor, with traffic count costs reduced by using existing counts, such as one done for a recent government grant application. Johnson assured the board that his firm had no links to developers doing business in town and thus no conflicts of interest.

Join the Conversation

We invite you to use our commenting platform to engage in insightful conversations about issues in our community. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable to us, and to disclose any information necessary to satisfy the law, regulation, or government request. We might permanently block any user who abuses these conditions.