Ridgefield arrow signs: Some may be removed

Speed limit adjustments will allow the proliferation of arrow signs in Ridgebury to be reduced on Ned’s Mountain Road, but not on Old Stagecoach Road.

“Ned’s Mountain Road, that will go down to 20,” Police Chief Jeff Kreitz said of the longstanding 25 miles per hour speed limit. “That means we can remove all the signs.”

Well, many of the signs, anyway.

“The signs on Old Stagecoach will need to remain?” asked Police Commission member George Kain.

“They will remain,” Chief Kreitz said.

The speed limit on Old Stagecoach Road will also remain — at 25 miles per hour.

It was about a year ago, in December 2018, that a large number of new arrow or “chevron” signs appeared in Ridgebury — 26 on the mile and a half length of Ned’s Mountain Road and 17 on Old Stagecoach Road between the Ridgebury Firehouse and the intersection with Ridgebury Road by the big horse farm.

A number of residents objected, feeling that so many signs detracted from the scenic beauty Ridgebury is known for, and that the addition of 43 arrow signs in a relatively small area was overkill.

Town officials, including the Police Commission, looked into having the signs removed, and it turned out that state and federal authorities said the arrow signs were necessitated by the speeds on the roads. So the Police Commission proposed lowering the speed limits on both Ned’s Mountain and Old Stagecoach roads from 25 to 20, which would nullify the state objections to removing the arrow signs.

The state also has the ultimate authority on speed limits, and studied both roads — separately — reaching a decision that lowering the speed made sense on narrow, windy Ned’s Mountain. But the state decided against lower the speed limit on Old Stagecoach — which is 22 to 24 feet wide, compared to Ned’s Mountain where the width varies from 14 to 20 feet.

“When establishing a speed limit,” the state wrote in its report on Old Stagecoach, “the primary goal is to achieve one that will be realistic, comfortable, and respected by drivers. If this is accomplished, it will result in uniform operating speeds, thus reducing the erratic behavior of drivers who are constantly passing slower moving vehicles.

“The majority of driver determine their speed based on traffic and roadway conditions, driving at speeds they consider safe. If the speed limit is not in accord with this, the majority of drivers will disregard the speed limit. Studies indicate that a speed limit lower than a realistic operating speed does not typically result in lower operating speeds or fewer crashes.”

Chief Kreitz said the removal of most of the arrow signs on Ned’s Mountain would have to wait for one more communication to come in from the state.

“What I’m waiting for on Ned’s Mountain, before we do the sign removal, is the state DOT does a final inspection — in the near future, hopefully,” Kreitz told The Press.

The latest developments on the Ridgebury arrow signs came up at the Police Commission’s Dec. 5 meeting, and the chief discussed them further in a follow-up conversation.

He declined to predict when the letter approving the sign removals might come in. “I was hoping we’d already have gotten the letter of approval,” the chief said. “I’m hoping sooner rather than later, but I also said that a couple of months ago.”

He noted that Ridgefield wasn’t the only town to get the arrow signs and then object to them. Nearby, both New Milford and Sherman had people objecting to similar arrows signs appearing along roads.

Kreitz added that the state had an unrelated plan to rethink the number and location of signs along state highways in town.

“The state is going to start upgrading,” he said. “Some are going to be removed, some added on the state roads. Overall, the town is only gaining two signs, in total,” Kreitz said. “This is a state project.”

It’s not just about how many signs there are.

“There’s a lot more that goes into it — the way they’re angled, the headlights have to hit them at a certain distance away,” he said. “...They have to be a certain dimension, reflectivity...”

The traffic signs are put up based on standards spelled out in a federal document called the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), Chief Kreitz said.