Johnston Police will be watching for motorists who disregard that giant white ‘X’ painted on Killingly Street

JPD: 'Don’t block that box!'


Ever have trouble turning off your neighborhood street during rush hour in Johnston?

Johnston Police are hoping to help alleviate the problem in at least one problem area, as they warn motorists, “Don’t Block the Box.”

The town has several major thoroughfares — Hartford and Atwood avenues, for example. One of the busiest, however, Killingly Street, approaching the borders of Providence and North Providence, can be infuriating for local residents.

“A few people in this neighborhood have called me,” said Town Council Vice President and mayoral candidate Joe Polisena Jr. “They’ve been having issues getting out of their street.”

Polisena met with Johnston Police Chief Joseph P. Razza and a contingent of officers from the department at the junction of Killingly Street and Maribeth Drive.

A large white box with an “X” in the center has been painted along Killingly Street, preceding the intersections with Maribeth Drive and Ruth Street.

Signs have been erected, warning motorists not to block the intersections.

“We put these out as a temporary fix,” Razza said, standing on the sidewalk as traffic buzzed by. “We want drivers to be cognizant not to block the intersections.”

A new sign will likely be posted soon, clearly telling drivers, “Don’t Block the Box.”

“Now they’re legally required, not to ‘block the box,’” Polisena added. “There will be enforcement here.”

Passersby will likely notice Johnston Police patrols in the vicinity. The goal, however, will be to educate, not punish drivers.

“I’d like to stress that we are trying to educate the motoring public as to what is required of them and why blocking the intersections is causing a quality of life issue for the people who live in the residential district within Maribeth Drive and Ruth Street,” Razza said. “Eventually we will be taking the appropriate enforcement action if the statute is violated, but at this juncture, we will be monitoring traffic and warning the public of their infractions.”

As traffic travels north and south on Killingly Street, cars often back up bumper-to-bumper for several miles, and cars often experience great difficulty pulling out from side streets.

“Residents of this neighborhood need to be able to get off this street,” Razza said. “This is supposed to be a message to the public, codified by law.”

Construction continues across the street from the intersections along Killingly Street, at the Seasons Corner Market. For now, the gas station is closed. When it reopens, however, the section will likely grow busier still.

“Once Seasons opens back up, with Mary Lou’s Coffee Shop, we really want to see everyone utilize this street safely,” Razza explained. “This neighborhood only has one egress and one ingress.”

Razza estimates approximately 100 residents occupy the affected neighborhood, and most households own, on average, two cars. The route is a “main route to Rhode Island College,” according to Polisena, and draws traffic in both directions from all over the Ocean State.

Killingly Street, also known as the Route 128 corridor, has been the subject of recent traffic and feasibility studies.

“Before we did anything, it had to go through the state,” Polisena said.

Razza said the State Traffic Commission looked at the timing of the lights, on Killingly (near the ramps for Route 6) and other major routes, like Greenville and Borden avenues, while also considering other infrastructure upgrades.

“This has been a process,” Razza explained. “Like anything, something like this takes time (to implement.)”

The newly painted white box on Killingly Street, and keeping cars from idling within it, will be enforced using the Ocean State’s “Don’t Block the Box” law: “No operator of a motor vehicle shall proceed into an intersection that has been designated, posted, and marked by a municipality … except when making a turn, unless there is sufficient space on the opposite side of the intersection to accommodate such motor vehicle without obstructing the passage of other vehicles or pedestrians notwithstanding the indication of a traffic control signal that would permit such operator to proceed into the intersection.”

Towns and cities in Rhode Island, “may, by ordinance, designate one or more intersections within the municipality as ‘Don’t Block the Box’ intersections,” according to the law.

Blocking the box can carry with it a $100 fine for the first violation, a $250 for the second fiolcation, and up to $500 for third and subsequent violations.


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