Town officials last week voted to recommend lowering the speed limits on three local roads so that they’re 25 mph throughout.
The Police Commission voted 3-0 at its June 19 meeting to establish the new speed limit throughout Old Norwalk Road, Wahackme Road and Weed Street. “They should be uniform,” Chairman Sperry DeCew said during the regular meeting, held in the training room at the New Canaan Police Department. “Almost all of them [local roads] are 25 [mph].”
Commissioners Paul Foley and Jim McLaughlin also voted in favor of the change. The change is meant to create more uniformity among local roads, which would then be 25 mph throughout New Canaan. (State roads such as Routes 106, 123 and 124 allow for higher speeds.) After residents of Silvermine Road complained about the 30 mph speed limit there, the town lowered it to 25 mph despite warnings from police and others that doing so would not change motorist behavior.
Saying it makes the busy intersection of Farm Road and South Avenue safer, officials determined recently to preserve the ‘No Turn on Red’ signs there.
Prompted by a New Canaan High School student who observed that about 40 percent of motorists before and after school turned right anyway at the stop lights at Farm and South, Public Works Director Tiger Mann had asked state transportation officials to study the intersection to see whether it might make sense to remove the signs. Ultimately, the Connecticut Department of Transportation (South Avenue is a state road, Route 124) recommended keeping the signs, as more than 3,000 total vehicles move through the intersection daily at peak times, and more than 75 pedestrians and cyclists, mostly school-aged, walk across some part of the intersection on weekdays. “It was noted that there were more pedestrians crossing the intersection that did not make use of the pedestrian signals, particularly during the afternoon peak hour,” DOT Transportation Engineer Catherine Watras told the town in an email summary of the state’s findings. “These are the peak hours for vehicles, and the turning movement counts indicate even more pedestrians during the peak times for school aged pedestrians due to the elementary, middle, and high schools in the immediate vicinity with requirements for all students residing within certain distances to walk. The intersection falls within those distances for all age groups. Even though the Town authorities have indicated that a policeman is posted at the intersection during the morning and afternoon peak school pedestrian hours, the staggered times for school start and end times already span 45 minutes, resulting in less coverage for either the high school students that begin the school day earlier or the later younger elementary school students.”
Though a three-year crash history of the intersection shows no crashes involved right turns, that’s with the ‘No Turn on Red’ signs already in place (which they have been since 1978), Wattras said.
The new ‘No Left Turn’ sign preventing northbound motorists from turning from Marvin Ridge onto Nursery Road during the morning commute is creating an entirely new safety hazard, according to police. Drivers seeking to avoid Merritt Parkway traffic between Exits 38 and 37 are traveling just past the sign and then pulling into private residential driveways—including those that serve as bus stops for local schoolchildren—in order to swing back around to make the right-hand turn down Nursery, according to New Canaan Police Deputy Chief John DiFederico. “I can confirm that is happening frequently, every minute or so there is another car that is northbound that pulls into [a Marvin Ridge Road woman’s] driveway, backs out into traffic, goes down southbound and turns right onto Nursery,” DiFederico told members of the Police Commission during their March 20 meeting, held at police headquarters. “That is a pretty serous safety concern, in my opinion, that now we have cars going onto private property that are school bus stops and backing into traffic. And that is something that we never had before with just high-volume traffic on Nursery Road.
Town officials say they’re tapping state officials to conduct a traffic study along Route 123 in the area of Michigan Road following a pair of serious car crashes there recently. It isn’t clear what can be done to make the intersection safer, though Police Deputy Chief John Federico said Tuesday the biggest problems appear to be that motorists on Michigan Road have poor sight lines for southbound traffic on Route 123, and that those traveling on the state road northbound have poor sight lines for those trying to enter the road. “Anything to clear up the line-of-sight in both directions would be a big help,” DiFederico said during a meeting of the Traffic Calming Work Group, held at police headquarters. Public Works Director Tiger Mann said that although there isn’t much vegetation right now blocking views, “there is a very large rock outcropping” that the state may need to look at. The outcropping is located on the east side of Route 123, just south of the Michigan Road intersection, he said.
Voicing frustration at times during a meeting with traffic officials Tuesday, residents of Church Street agreed to wait until next year to find out whether a double-yellow line recently painted down the center of their road could be nixed from future post-paving plans. Since a new centerline appeared on Church Street last month, residents have said it’s speeding up motor vehicle traffic and is out of character with their neighborhood.
Andy Towers told members of the Traffic Calming Work Group during a special meeting that local Realtors also have been unanimous in their feedback that “living on double-yellow line road is less desirable for people and their families than one that is not.”
“Certainly we are all concerned with kids and the pets and everybody and I understand and respect that you guys have a job to do,” Towers said at the meeting, held in the New Canaan Police Department’s training room.
“The reality is this attacks our bottom line if the perception from the people that are in the business is that people don’t want to or are less apt to buy houses on streets with a double-yellow line and all of our net stakes are connected to that, I would think there would be recourse for our group to address that. It just seems as though, what is the difference between throwing down two yellow lines in the middle of the road and saying you owe us $200,000, you owe us 6 percent or 5 percent or whatever the numbers are? You are hacking into the value of our property. There is no question about it.