NORTH SMITHFIELD – In 2014, after several town officials witnessed a 50-foot long tractor-trailer carrying flammable gas attempt the nearly impossible feat of navigating the narrow streets surrounding Town Hall, action was taken to prevent a future accident.
Councilors at the time, led by Edward Yazbak, unanimously passed a resolution asking the Rhode Island Department of Transportation to limit large truck traffic in Slatersville village.
The General Assembly passed a law directing RIDOT to post signs prohibiting trucks with more than 4 axels from traveling on Main Street, North Main Street, School Street and Greene Street within .3 miles of Town Hall.
At the time, the nearby Stone Arch Bridge was under construction and down to a single lane, and semi-trailer trucks were also banned from that structure.
Signs were posted – with the caveat that exceptions had to be made for deliveries to local businesses.
But according to Town Administrator Gary Ezovski, the problem, it seems, was never really solved.
On Monday, Sept. 9, a large truck knocked down a utility pole trying to turn in front of Town Hall, briefly cutting power to the area. According to National Grid spokesman Ted Kresse, while power to most homes was restored within 6-7 minutes, work to replace the pole and transformers took more than four hours.
The incident has some questioning if the truck ban has been enforced, and why missing signs in the area haven’t been replaced.
Former Town Councilor John Flaherty posted about the incident on social media.
“I inquired about enforcement with the administrator back in July when there was evidence that large trucks were jumping the new sidewalks and risking damage,” noted Flaherty. “The roads in the center of this village were not designed to accommodate such large trucks. And there remains adequate access for large trucks using alternate routes.”
According to Ezovski, it’s on ongoing problem – and not one with a simple solution.
“It is a difficult rule to enforce,” the administrator said.
Ezovski noted that part of the problem is the exception for local deliveries.
“How do you define that?” he asked.
Ezovski pointed out that businesses in the area – including Lindy’s Tavern, Village Haven, Hercules Pizza, Quick Stop and Lucky Dog – all receive deliveries, making it difficult to access which trucks should and should not be there.
“The people aren’t using Route 5 to go from Worcester to Warwick,” he said.
He said he has brought the truck problem to the attention of local police. But officers, he said, have told him that the signs never really seemed to help.
Ezovski noted the truck issue is just one of several traffic problems in the village, saying he’s “not impressed,” with signage put up by DOT following last year’s completion of the bridge repair. To start, he notes that the stop sign for traffic traveling south bound on North Main Street is in a location that does not allow vehicles to see oncoming traffic.
“It’s rational that people roll by and stop where they can see,” Ezovski said.
The administrator said he was also disappointed that DOT failed to install signs on the west approach to the village noting “thickly settled” and “vehicles turning,” which would have warned traffic to slow down.
Ezovski said he is also displeased with the installation of two new signs in front of Hercules at grade with the street – structures he says may have been partially to blame for Monday’s accident.
“My guess is the driver was trying to avoid those signs,” he said. “I don’t think they’re going to last long.”
The administrator said he has brought all of the traffic problems in Slatersville to the attention of officials at DOT.