Traffic concerns brewing on Rt. 20 near Tree House in Charlton
CHARLTON – State officials have been working with Tree House Brewing Co. to map short-term traffic safety improvements on Route 20 within the next few weeks, a Department of Transportation spokesman said Friday.
The area in question is an undivided portion of Route 20 where the speed limit is 50 mph. At times, motorists try to leave the new business by crossing the highway to turn left, or make an ill-advised U-turn.
According to police, there have been eight accidents at or near Tree House Brewing since the 55,000-square-foot craft brewing company opened in July.
Also, Charlton police have logged numerous complaints and concerns from the public with regard to traffic there, according to Officer Richard McGrath, the Police Department’s public records officer.
DOT spokesman Patrick Marvin said in an e-mail Friday: “The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has been closely monitoring this location and is pleased to collaborate with municipal leaders, elected officials, and local businesses to ensure safe and reliable travel throughout this area.”
The spokesman did not say what the short-term improvements would be, but he noted, “MassDOT will also be working with all of the stakeholders involved in this topic in order to help put in place potential longer term improvements to address traffic and safety concerns at this location in the coming year.”
According to Officer McGrath, various remedies have been suggested locally, including traffic lights, turning lanes, barriers, signs, and a reconstruction of the Tree House Brewing driveway.
“MassDOT is doing their own traffic study so that they can come up with viable proposals,” Officer McGrath said in an interview.
Of the eight motor vehicle accidents, two were in the business’s parking lot and the other six were in front of the business and related to people turning or changing lanes while entering or exiting Tree House Brewing, Officer McGrath said. Causes have included not paying attention, traveling too fast, or following too close, he said.
“We don’t think that this is a problem with the business,” he said. “We certainly don’t see it as a brewery being a problem in the area.”
“The problem,” he explained, “is the volume, and there are some inconsiderate drivers that are causing a hazard.”
In taking a proactive approach, Officer McGrath said, former interim Police Chief Daniel R. Charette and new Police Chief Graham Maxfield directed patrols to look out for motor vehicle violations in the area of the business, such as drivers making unsafe U-turns on the highway.
As resources and time allow, officers have cited people and have taken the opportunity to educate drivers, Officer McGrath said.
Also, Tree House Brewing during some of its busier promotional events hired officers on paid details to address concerns and help mitigate the volume of people, pedestrians and motor vehicles on the property, Officer McGrath said.
“Tree House has been very cooperative,” he said. “They recognize there is a concern. They’re trying to work with us. They’re certainly not taking an adversarial stance in regards to this. They want to be good neighbors.”
The topic was the subject of a Nov. 1 meeting at the state Department of Transportation’s District 3 office in Worcester. It was attended by Chief Maxfield, Town Administrator Robin Craver, selectmen, and representatives of the DOT and Tree House Brewing. Officer McGrath said he did not attend.
On Nov. 7, Charlton selectmen appointed resident David Smolski to a traffic commission to address concerns about problem areas of town, including at Tree House Brewing. Chief Maxfield and Officer McGrath are also on the committee. Selectmen are seeking a total of five members and an alternate.