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Rotary-turned-square brings state of confusion

Based on the e-mails we've been getting, things don't seem to be running smoothly around Drum Hill "Square" in Chelmsford, the newly configured intersection formerly known as the infamous Drum Hill Rotary off Route 3 at Exit 32. A Hawthorn Suites near the square is holding a "celebration" of the new intersection this week, which some have said should also include a tutorial on its use. And based on the e-mails we've received, that might not be a bad idea.

The Hawthorn Suites event will be held between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday at the hotel, 25 Research Place, North Chelmsford. Background: As part of the $385 million Route 3 north widening project from Burlington to the New Hampshire state line, the Drum Hill Rotary has been replaced by a standard interchange controlled by four separate traffic signals directing the confluence of Route 4, the offramps from Route 3, and other adjacent roadways. The rotary basically became a square -- and to many people, a confusing square.

The updated $4 million interchange, used by about 35,000 vehicles daily, opened to traffic on Oct. 31. Before the alterations, Drum Hill was notable for being the third-highest accident location in the state.

According to readers, five months later "reports of the demise of the Drum Hill Rotary are greatly exaggerated."

"Call me stupid, but it still looks like a rotary to me -- a rotary with the ends lopped off [a squaretary?]," wrote Kathy of Westford.

"I was looking forward to cruising across those beautiful new bridges. Instead I'm faced with a bewildering mass of poorly marked lanes and traffic lights. Please tell me this is still a work in progress!" Kathy added.

Others praised the new alignment, sort of.

"The [Route 3] Rotary/Square transition is now mostly functional," wrote Bob of Chelmsford.

"However, there are now longer backups because of the traffic lights. . . . On two occasions while entering the `square' from Westford Road, the light turned green for me and multiple cars were still approaching the intersection from my left. It is an accident waiting to happen!" he wrote.

Bob, who said he'd been traveling through the rotary for more than 20 years, said signage was poor and it is difficult to figure out the correct lane in which to travel.

"It is a real problem for people unfamiliar with the area," he said. "Lots of cars cutting across lanes because they find out too late they are not where they need to be. Maybe BIGGER signs further back?"

Wrote Marc of North Chelmsford: "Are they going to correct the lanes in the erstwhile rotary? There is an awful lot of lane crossing required by the layout . . . especially to take the Route 4 north turnoff. This is an improvement?"

Jon Carlisle, spokesman for the Massachusetts Highway Department, said the intersection remains a work in progress.

"We hear anecdotally that it's working well," said Carlisle, while acknowledging some issues with signage and ill-timed signals.

"And some construction still needs to happen on the ramps that will make it fully functional," he said, adding that the single-laned ramps both northbound and southbound from the interchange to Route 3 will be widened to two lanes, allowing traffic to flow better at the intersection.

In addition, there are no "loop detectors" in the pavement -- devices that can sense waiting traffic and change the traffic signals to get vehicles moving if there is a big backup. They will be installed this summer, he said.

"To a certain extent, it's kind of an act in progress as far as getting it fully functional," Carlisle said.

Acela to Maine?

Anthony of Brookline wrote, "I'm only sending you this note in case you want a bit of humor for your column." We can use all the help we can get.

"The Amtrak ads showing the Acela is heading out of North Station," he wrote, referring to a new series of ads that, indeed, have the sleek trains heading north -- not south -- out of Boston.

The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge is in the direct background, and the Custom House in the far background. The train appears to be floating in air as it heads to Maine, but we'll let the artist have a little liberty.

"I brought this to the attention of the information person at South Station, and she as much told me to find something more important in my life to deal with," Anthony wrote. "I thought it was funny; she did not. So do with it what you want."

Amtrak officials, not getting the joke, responded.

"These ads are art created by noted popular artist/designer Michael Schwab," wrote Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black. "There is a series of stylized poster images that accompany our ad copy for print media. Washington has the usual, familiar monuments, New York City has the Empire State Building [as I recall], and Boston has the Old North Church.

"These posters are designed to have eye appeal and to give a sense of the destination, not technical accuracy; they are [obviously] not intended as maps or direction finders regarding our trains' routes.

"In the picture, the Acela doesn't even have a catenary [the conduit between the train and the overhead electrical lines], so presumably it couldn't run either north or south without power!"

You say Trapelo

The Belmont Citizens Forum, a local grass-roots organization, will hold a public event on the rebuilding of Trapelo Road and Belmont Street in Belmont. The forum, at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Belmont Studio Cinema, is titled "One Year Later: What's Belmont's Vision for Trapelo Road?" According to the forum's Evie Malliris, the road is "a somewhat windblown wasteland, very wide in some places, with unclear lane demarcation and uninhabitable by pedestrians. The rebuilding of Trapelo Road, whatever form it takes, will be critical to the quality of life in Belmont."

St. Pat-T's Day

It's St. Patrick's Day all over again today in South Boston, where the T wants to take you to and from the parade. Extra Red, Orange, Green, and Blue Line trains will be added to today's schedule to carry the heavier-than-normal ridership. The extra service will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Customer service vans and portable booths will be available at Broadway Station to purchase tokens.

Seven MBTA bus routes are affected by the parade, including two routes that will be halted while the parade is marching.

The bus routes will cease running to change their routes beginning around 11:30 a.m.:

Route #9 (City Point -- Copley) and the Route #11 (City Point -- Downtown) will cease service until the parade is finished, around 4:30 p.m.

Route #10 bus (City Point -- Copley Square via Andrew Station and South End Medical Area) will run from South Bay Mall to Copley Square until the parade ends.

Route #16 bus (Fields Corner -- JFK Station)

Route #17 bus (Fields Corner -- Andrew Station) Route #18 bus (Ashmont Station -- Andrew Station)* Inbound and outbound buses will travel their normal routes between Columbia Road, but will not travel to Andrew Station, using Columbia Road to Kusciusko Circle and JFK Station instead. Route #47 (Central Square -- Cambridge/Broadway)

* Inbound/outbound buses regular route to Albany Street. Buses will not travel to Broadway Station.

Red Line rehab

The MBTA is holding a series of community meetings to discuss the upcoming Red Line rehabilitation projects at Shawmut, Fields Corner, and Savin Hill.T construction personnel, as well as its contractor, will discuss the construction schedule and important milestones that will affect Red Line service and Dorchester residents. Savin Hill Station -- 7 p.m., tomorrow, St. Williams Church Hall, 1048 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester.

Fields Corner Station -- 7 p.m. Tuesday, Kit Clarke Senior Center, 1500 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester.

Shawmut Station -- 7 p.m., March 30, St. Mark's Hall, 1725 Dorchester Ave., Dorchester.

Can't get there . . .

* I-93 south over the Charles River will be closed from 12:01 to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 1 to 6 a.m. Saturday. The onramps to I-93 south from Storrow Drive, the Tobin Bridge, and City Square in Charlestown will also be closed at the same times. * I-93 north over the Charles River will be closed from 12:01 to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 1 to 6 a.m. Saturday.

* The ramp from Kneeland Street/Surface Artery to I-93 south will be closed from 10 p.m. Wednesday to 5 a.m. Thursday.

* The Haymarket onramp to I-93 south and the Callahan Tunnel will be closed from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Saturday morning.

* The Sumner Tunnel onramp to I-93 north will be closed from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. tomorrow through Friday, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Friday morning, and from 11 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday.

* The Haymarket onramp to I-93 north will be closed from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. tomorrow through Friday, from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Friday morning, and from 11 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday.

* The Atlantic Avenue onramp to I-93 north will be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. tomorrow through Friday morning and from 11 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday.

* The Rutherford Avenue onramp to the Tobin Bridge will be closed from 1 to 5 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

* The Albany Street Extension between Kneeland and Herald Streets will be closed from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. beginning tomorrow, Tuesday, and Thursday.

* Causeway Street between Canal and Medford street will be closed from 11 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. tomorrow through Friday.

* India Street between Surface Artery and Franklin Street, which provides access to Broad Street, will be closed from 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. tomorrow through Friday.

Complain to us at Don't forget to send us your hometown. Outside the paper, the column can be found at Our mailing address is Starts & Stops, P.O. Box 55819, Boston, MA 02205-5819.

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