Worcester, MA– If you've never driven through Kelley Square in Worcester, you have not yet passed your unofficial Masshole driver's test. At this hellish intersection, seven roads come together with nothing but the occasional stop sign to guide drivers through. No traffic lights or pedestrian "walk" signals, but plenty of painted crosswalks so we still get some pedestrians in the mix. When I drove through it for the first time last fall, I made a mental note to never do it again. Lost in Worcester, I ended up driving through Kelley Square three times that day. And I lived to tell the tale. Though I'm not originally from here, I guess I might be a Masshole after all.
Yves Pelletier, owner of Best Driving School in Worcester, says he brings students to Kelley Square to teach them how to drive. "When you learn how to drive, you’re a sheep among wolves. Then you become one. The way you get through Kelley Square is, you never stop, you keep moving," said Pelletier.
The Boston Globe's Nestor Ramos rode in the car with Kelley Square Pizza delivery driver Enrique Tirado to get a sense of how the locals handle the chaos of Kelley Square. It boils down to bravery at slow speeds. Accidents, while common in Kelley Square, are rarely serious, since most people are timidly inching their way across with snail-like caution. The real pros know that you have to claim your opening and just go for it. Otherwise you could be sitting there for god-knows-how-long, waiting for someone to take pity on you (this is Massachusetts; it won't happen).
There's plenty of reasons to want to be in the neighborhood of Kelley Square. Hip lunch spot BirchTree Bread is right around the corner, along with Bocado Tapas Bar and Smokestack Urban Barbecue. Worcester has grown an impressive restaurant scene in recent years, making a name for itself as a "foodie city." While it has made strides in attracting young professionals to the area and revitalizing the restaurant scene, Kelley Square is an example of how Worcester's infrastructure is experiencing some growing pains. With its winning bid to become the new home of the Pawtucket Red Sox, Worcester has plans to update this traffic cluster so that it can safely accommodate the crowds.
Construction on the intersection is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2019, with $14 million estimated for the redesign. The intersection will be transformed into a "hybrid" two-lane rotary with an island at the center. Let's hope it's an improvement on the current mess.