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Hingham Town Meeting starts late,
rejects Main/Cushing traffic light

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  April 27, 2011 10:55 AM

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hingham town meeting - vote

Hingham residents opposing the traffic light stand in the background for a standing vote about the issue. The motion would fail with 145 people against, 126 for.

Hingham’s Annual Town Meeting wrapped up Tuesday, with the rejection of a traffic light at Cushing, Main, and Pleasant Streets, and the approval of moving the Sewer Commission under the umbrella of the Department of Public Works.

Although majority of the remaining warrants passed without trouble, the start of the meeting was delayed for over an hour due to a lack of quorum.

According to Hingham bylaws, at least 300 people must be present at Town Meeting in order for the event to take place. As of 7 p.m., about 150 had shown up, prompting Town Moderator Tom O’Donnell to ask audience members to call people to come down.

Despite both Red Sox and Bruins games competing for attention, a quorum was eventually formed and the necessary votes taken to end the annual event in two evenings. Click here to read about the first night's votes.

Although there was little discussion on most of Tuesday's 16 warrant articles, there was an outcry over town officials' suggestion that installing a traffic light at Cushing, Main, and Pleasant Streets was not necessary.

“It is a problem more than just in the peak hours of the day…either a traffic signal or a roundabout would be an effective traffic-control measure,” said Bernard Manning, a Hingham resident who lives on Cushing Street.

Other Hingham residents agreed, saying the intersection is dangerous not just for cars, but for pedestrians.

“For people who know Main Street, it’s a dangerous road to try to cross no matter where you live,” said Karen Thompson, who lives on Main. “I’d like us to start thinking about pedestrians when we start thinking about traffic, and not just the vehicles.”

“Some say its not a safety issue, and I strongly disagree with that,” agreed Bernie Peavey, who lives at Linden Ponds. “That’s a lot of cars there. More than 40,000 … I don’t see how you don’t see it as a safety problem. It’s really that simple, a traffic light will help us control the traffic and will prevent accidents from happening. … we need that traffic light to help everybody.”

For Paul O’Donnell, the subject was personal.

O’Donnell was struck at the intersection in 1979, an incident that prompted a long hospital stay and thousands of dollars in medical bills, he said.

“I don’t see what the statics are. When people get hurt, you got to do something about it! I couldn’t play gym in this gym my entire high school class because I was in crutches. So this hits home,” he said. “I love this town, but you got to do something with that intersection…it’s appalling if [something] doesn’t happen.”

Despite the assertions from multiple residents, Traffic Committee member and Planning Board member Paul Healey said the studies show that a light isn’t warranted.

Although the study did recommend a light at the intersection, town officials feel the number of accidents, none of which were severe, isn’t worth the installation of a $400,000 light.

“I freely admit that reasonable minds can differ, but every member agreed…it simply wasn’t warranted on the facts. Yes, you have to wait a little bit to get out of there, but if you wait, it’s not unsafe,” he said.

On a standing vote, 126 people were in favor of a light and 145 people against.

Although the traffic light motion failed, many other items were approved, including the warrant to put the Sewer Commission under the DPW umbrella.

According to Selectmen Chair Bruce Rabuffo, the merger would save money, encourage cross-training across the two departments, and would not change the authority of the Sewer Commission or its role.

An audience member recommended that the town revisit the idea in a few years to check on the progress of the merger.

The merger will also need approval from the Board of Selectmen and the Sewer Commission in order to come to fruition.

Other actions:
--Unanimous vote on the Hersey House rezoning from Open Space to Residential A.
--No action taken on the proposed sale of the South Shore Country Club.

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