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Summer over, Cape road work abounds on Astini News

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Drivers navigate past construction barrels while workers start building a roundabout on Route 149 in West Barnstable on Wednesday.Cape Cod Times/Merrily Cassidy

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WEST BARNSTABLE — Route 6 has been awash in construction oranges and yellows this fall as the state tackles several highly visible road work projects.

A state contractor is performing $2.1 million in maintenance on the Route 6 overpass above Route 132. The two lanes going each way have been split to allow work in the middle of the road.

At Exit 5, workers have begun construction on a long-awaited roundabout to create a more orderly traffic pattern at the highway's intersection with Route 149.

The area is notorious for drivers turning across traffic. It was the location of 83 crashes from 2006 to 2008, placing it in the top five locations on the Cape for car accidents, according to state data compiled by the Cape Cod Commission.

The $1.3 million Massachusetts Department of Transportation roundabout project will connect the eastbound entrance and exit ramps to Route 6, Route 149 and the Service Road. The work, which will also lengthen so-called "deceleration lanes" off Route 6, should be complete within a year.

A project at the Exit 2 interchange with Route 6 in Sandwich will include signal lights instead of a roundabout, a decision West Barnstable public safety officials believe would have been wiser at Exit 5.

"Aesthetics were put ahead of safety," West Barnstable fire Capt. David Paananen said.

Officials are also concerned that the Service Road on the west side of Route 149 will not feed into the roundabout, he said.

Although fire officials hope the slower traffic in the roundabout will lead to fewer traffic accidents, it will be difficult to evaluate success until it is in place, he said.

"There's no way to please everybody all the time," said Cape Cod Commission senior transportation planner Priscilla Leclerc.

Roundabouts, Leclerc said, have been found to be much safer than traffic lights nationwide.

An initial plan to install a bevy of traffic lights around the intersection met with stiff resistance in the community, Town Councilor Henry "Hank" Farnham said.

"It was like New Jersey," he said of the traffic lights.

Instead, the town's engineer, state highway officials and former state Rep. Jeffrey Perry worked to come up with the roundabout solution as an alternative, Farnham said, adding he has pushed for traffic improvements at the intersection since becoming a town councilor.

"It was a well-vetted process that was very popular with the residents," said Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Wendy Northcross, who lives in West Barnstable.

Despite the project's benefits, however, some people were not prepared for its effect on Route 6 traffic, Northcross said.

Although road construction projects on the Cape come to a stop between Labor Day and Memorial Day work can still be a headache for drivers and local businesses during the so-called shoulder season, she said.

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