Town officials have approve a series of traffic-calming measures on lower Valley Road designed to improve pedestrian safety in the area of a psychiatric hospital whose staff and patients cross the busy street to reach different sections of its campus.
The Police Commission at its March 16 meeting voted 3-0 in favor of installing a sign advising motorists to reduce their speed from 25 to 20 mph in the area of Silver Hill Hospital.
At the request of New Canaan-based landscape architecture firm Keith Simpson Associates and with support from police and public works officials, the appointed body also approved moving “Hospital Zone” signs closer to the actual approaches to Silver Hill from both directions, putting in permanent speed sentries to notify motorists of their vehicles’ speeds, painting a single shoulder line along 1,800 feet of campus street frontage and installing pedestrian-activates rapid rectangular flashing beacons or “RRFBs” at two crosswalks there.
“Valley Road is a busy road,” Simpson told the commissioners at the meeting, held via videoconference.
Silver Hill is unique among institutions such as private schools that are set within residential zones in that it is bisected by a road, Simpson said, “which gives SH a unique challenge, really ,and in fact all of us who are interested in public safety.”
“WIth seven buildings on each side of the road there is significant pedestrian traffic in an area of town where, if people are driving along Valley Road who are not necessarily familiar with the fact that there was a campus there and Silver Hill was there and they felt they were just driving along another residential road with cars coming in and out of driveways, they would not expect to find major pedestrian cross-traffic,” Simpson said Simpson. He added that he himself is a resident of the area and drives on Valley Road daily.
Commission Chair Paul Foley, Secretary Jim McLaughlin and member Shekaiba Bennett voted in favor of the changes. Public Works Director Tiger Mann and Police Deputy Chief John DiFederico voiced no concerns with the plan.
The commissioners asked whether the lights of the RRFBs are turned completely off other than when activated by pedestrians (yes), how long the RRFBs flash (for the length of time it takes someone to cross the road), whether speed sentries would go in at both the northern and southern ends of the campus (yes) and whether the advisory speed limit signs exist elsewhere (yes, near the Silvermine Arts Center).
Foley asked who would pay for what as part of the project. Simpson said Silver Hill would pay for the signage and infrastructure, and the town would help with installation.
“We know Silver Hill is very conscious of the safety of its staff and patients crossing the road,” Simpson said. “We do think it shares responsibility crossing the road by giving pedestrians the opportunity to stop traffic, enable them to cross. Silver Hill is enormously concerned about the safety of its entire community so this is very, very much driving the thinking regarding improvements to these pedestrian crossings.”