Long and winding roads: Is a speed limit of 25 too high?
Drivers on Ridgefield town roads — from straight flat Farmingville to winding, hilly Ned’s Mountain — are supposed to keep to a town-wide speed limit of 25 miles per hour.
Voters will likely be asked to give the Police Commission the authority to change that — possibly on any town road, but maybe just on the town’s 16 scenic roads.
Two versions of a proposed amendment to town ordinances have been under discussion by town officials.
They are working to get a proposal before voters — probably at a quarterly town meeting scheduled for June 19. The Police Commission, the Board of Selectmen and the town attorneys are collaborating to come up with appropriate language they all agree on.
Currently, Section 340-3 of the town ordinances reads: “The speed limit on all town roads in the town, other than state roads, shall be 25 miles per hour.”
Both versions of the ordinance revision that have been discussed would give the power to change the speed limit to the “local traffic authority” — which is the Police Commission.
The simpler and more straightforward version, favored by the Board of Selectmen, mirrors much of the original language: “The speed limit on all roads in the town, other than state roads, shall be as determined by the local traffic authority.”
Another version that the selectmen discussed at their April 17 meeting, after it was sent to them by the Police Commission, was less broad.
It would use the same language that “speed limits ... shall be determined by the local traffic authority,” but would add a second sentence: “Provided, however, notwithstanding the foregoing, the speed limit on any road designated as a ‘scenic’ road may be further decreased with the approval of the local traffic authority in accordance with state statute.”
Given the two potential amendments, Selectman Steve Zemo said he favored “the simpler one.”
Selectman Bob Hebert agreed.
First Selectman Rudy Marconi was also on board. “I’ll send it back,” Marconi said. “Keep it simple.”
Aside from the profusion of language, the principal difference appears to be the second ordinance proposal’s raising of the idea that authority to change to the speed limits should be focused on the town’s 16 official “scenic roads.”
First Selectman Rudy Marconi said in an April 22 interview that after their discussion the selectmen are suggesting to the Police Commission and Police Chief Jeff Kreitz that they rethink the proposal.
“We’re sending it back to the Police Commission to approve more general language without any specificity to the scenic roads,” Marconi said. “That’s up to them.”
“They didn’t want to do it now. They felt at this time all they wanted to look at were scenic roads. The Board of Selectmen didn’t understand that, so it’s been sent back to them for reconsideration.”
The Police Commission is scheduled to meet again Thursday, May 9.
The selectmen’s April 17 discussion meeting touched on the practicality of the blanket 25 miles per hour limit on all roads in town that aren’t state highways, and the possibility of varying the 25 limit for scenic and other narrow, hilly, winding roads.
“How are people going to know?” asked Selectwoman Maureen Kozlark.
“Speed limits are posted,” said Marconi.
“A sign isn’t necessarily going to stop someone,” said Hebert.
Marconi offered a case in point. “Farmingville is 25. They can do 45 or 50,” he said.
The Police Commission, if given the authority, could address speed limits in areas where 25 miles per hour seems too fast — like Ned’s Mountain Road.
“There are some serious curves on the road, where they may want to drop it to 10 or 15,” Marconi told fellow selectmen.
The Police Commission’s initial discussion was prompted at least in part by the appearance of large numbers of arrow signs along curves on Ned’s Mountain Road and also Ridgebury Road back in December.
“...We have been dealing with this signage issue for awhile,” Police Commission Chairman George Kain said in an April 15 email to The Press. “My understanding is that Chief Kreitz and Rudy met with Dave Grogins on this issue, and his suggestion was to create a town ordinance that would give the local traffic authority (i.e. the Police Commission) the authority to establish limits on town scenic roads.”
To be officially listed as scenic, a road has to meet certain criteria and residents of the road have to petition for the designation. The town’s 16 officially designated scenic roads are: Florida Road, Lounsbury Road, Ned’s Mountain Road, Old Branchville Road, Pelham Lane. Pine Mountain Road, Silver Spring Road, Clearview Terrace, Clearview Drive, Lake Road, Lakeside Drive, Lakeside Drive Extension, Mountain Road, Rainbow Drive, Shady Lane, Woody Place.
The arrow signs along Ned’s Mountain appeared in December — 26 of them, and another 17 on the curvy stretch of Old Stagecoach Road between of the big horse farm and the intersection by the Ridgebury Firehouse. They’d been put there by the state, which had approached the Police Commission some time before about putting up safety signs, but hadn’t made it clear how many there would be.
“Those signs are supposed to be coming down,” Marconi said.
“It’s almost a joke to be a scenic road with all those signs on them,” said John Katz, a Ridgebury resident who serves on the Planning and Zoning Commission and attends most selectmen’s meetings as an interested citizen.
“It was a federal program where they just put up signs for free,” Marconi said, reflecting the Police Commission’s previous statements. Town officials weren’t told how many signs would be going up along relatively short stretches of roads.
“...We didn’t know,” Marconi said.
“What I fear,” said Katz, “ is a codified desecration of these roads.”