Though officials two months ago lowered the speed limit on Silvermine Road from 30 to 25 mph, motor vehicle traffic still whizzes through the neighborhood and its increasingly popular, pedestrian-oriented commercial area, residents said last week.
Describing Silvermine as unique in that it has its own market, arts center and soon-to-reopen inn and restaurant, residents told members of the Police Commission at their regular meeting that more must be done in order to reduce the speed of cars and trucks to safe levels.
Mark Thorsheim said that reducing the speed limit hasn’t changed the behavior of drivers.
“There need to be physical infrastructure changes beyond the 25 mph,” he told members of the Police Commission at their June 14 meeting, held in the New Canaan Police Department’s training room.
“Silvermine, the road, the neighborhood is different than other roads. To compare the speed limit and the speeds at which cars travel completely relative to other roads out of town from my perspective, really disregards what goes on in the neighborhood. We have got the Art Guild, the market, the tavern is reopening. We now have the new Fowler Preserve, the river. It is a pedestrian neighborhood and I would encourage you to come down to join me on weekends to see how fast cars travel and how, for starters, they just do not slow down for pedestrians. So we can look at speed calculations and how they change when monitors go up, but at end of day it doesn’t feel comfortable at 30, 35, 40, 45 and 50 mph to have people not slow down and just drive right past you.”
The neighbors suggested new sidewalks, speed bumps, speed humps and extra stop signs as ways that the town may calm traffic on the approximately one-mile stretch of Silvermine Road from Route 106 to Comstock Hill.
Though some of those solutions were either impractical or not immediately doable, commissioners said—for example, according to Chairman Stuart Sawabini, the Planning & Zoning Commission should be approached regarding sidewalks, while speed bumps create problems for emergency vehicles and snow plows, as well as great expense to maintain, and stop signs are an not effective traffic-calming measure—there are other options to test first.
Sawabini said the commission would boost speed enforcement during peak times as well as look into longer-term placement of radar displays and a traffic-calming measure in Pound Ridge that appears to motorists to make roads more narrow.
“What we found in some neighborhoods is narrowing the road has an interesting effect on traffic—it makes people feel as though there is less road and therefore, ‘I will go more slowly,’ ” Sawabini said.
He pointed to “semi-permanent stanchions” in the area of Scotts Corner that stand on road shoulder lines at car-height, creating the impression that a road narrows.
Thorsheim said that Silvermine Road is used “as a cut-through to Norwalk and Wilton and other places.”
“And so the character of the neighborhood, to me, has changed because I believe there is more volume statistically,” he said. “I’m glad to go back to the database and sort whether that is the case but there is no question from my perspective, the road is well traveled and it is more like an in-town circumstance than out of town.”
Jan Trifero, a Silvermine Road resident for 32 years, said that when the Interstate 95-Merritt Parkway connector was installed, traffic increased in her neighborhood, including among trucks. Those accustomed to walking in the neighborhood have grown fearful, she said.
“I fear for my life, and my dog’s,” Jan Trifero said.
Her husband, Jack Trifero, asked why the town cannot install ‘No Trucks Passing’ signs in the residential area, or a ‘No Trucks Allowed’ sign. Sawabini responded that it’s a measure typically taken when a bridge or road surface cannot support the weight of a truck. Officials added that such a sign would require state approval.
Brian DeChristopher said he lives on a straightaway of Silvermine Road near the Valley Road intersection and that people often accelerate just there.
“If we are going speed limit or just above, people gun it around you and pass you, and so that is extremely aggressive and it is not just speeding that is reckless, in my mind,” he said.
Silvermine Market owner Lou Aloupis said cars also pick up speed as they travel through the neighborhood’s commercial area—to the point where some are very nervous crossing the street to pick up their mail.
Commissioner Paul Foley said he was “not opposed” to studying speed humps or bumps for Silvermine.
Sawabini cautioned that the upshot of such traffic-calming measures often is to push traffic to other nearby streets.
Thorsheim asked for clarity on just which town bodies should be approached to broach the idea of infrastructure changes in Silvermine to reduce motor vehicle traffic speeds.
Sawabini said the town will “continue to work on this” and seek to “find a good resolution.”
“We want a good one that is long-lasting and based on engineering studies,” Sawabini said.
He commended Thorsheim for his leadership among neighbors and urged residents to continue providing feedback about successive traffic calming measures.
“We welcome your input and welcome your voice,” Sawabini said. “It is a good, strong voice.”