Friday, October 10, 2003
Tricks to slow speeders on Carlisle's roads elude town officials
There are no inexpensive and easy solutions to slow speeders on West Street and other Carlisle back roads, the Selectmen heard on September 23 from the Police and Fire Chiefs.
The board had received a request from residents to "do something" to counter speeding on West Street, but residents had objected to a stop sign at the corner of West and Acton Streets. Knowing of similar problems throughout the town, and recognizing that any solution in one area would have an impact elsewhere, the Selectmen had asked Police Chief David Galvin, Fire Chief David Flannery, and Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie to review a number of options to slow traffic.
Bumps, humps and lumps
The chiefs could not recommend a solution that would help on West Street. Flannery expressed opposition to suggested speed bumps, and other variations ("humps" and "lumps") that change the level of the roadway, not only for this location but elsewhere in town. In fighting a fire, the department has to run hoses from the closest water supply to supplement the water carried by truck. This requires laying hose at the side of the road between the fire and the pond or cistern. Flannery explained that bumps in the road could create kinks and tangles in the hoses and cost "critical" time delays.
"We missed you"
Galvin noted that even if traffic is slowed at one place it will pick up speed a quarter of a mile down the road, or move to another road entirely. Drivers who exceed speed limits will do so regardless of efforts to slow them down. Every six months police set up a "sting" and "give out 40 to 50 tickets an hour" on West Street, frequently to the same people, Galvin told the Selectmen. "Why don't you just send them a ticket in the mail saying 'We missed you,'" quipped Selectman John Ballantine.
Galvin reviewed another possible, but expensive, solution. Natural traffic "calming" would involve designing the road "to convince operators to instinctively slow their speeds," as does the narrow and winding section of West Street below the Acton Street intersection. Sidewalks or pathways could also contribute to calming West and other winding town roads, he added.
The problem is that the town's roads were designed for "one-and-a-half cars," Ballantine noted. "If you know Carlisle . . . you know there are certain places you just don't [drive] at commuting time," he added. He worries that at some point there will be a fatality, "and then we'll put in a blinking light," as happened at Barrett's Mill Road in Concord.
The Chiefs and Selectmen repeatedly predicted that increasing traffic on West Street and other Carlisle "cut-through" roads from I-495 and the north and west, will exacerbate the problems. Board Chair Tim Hult asked the chiefs to continue to look for solutions, particularly changes in the road surface.
One-way permanent at school
At the same meeting the Selectmen agreed with Galvin's strong recommendation that Church Street at the Carlisle School (between School Street and Bedford Road) remain one-way from west to east, after the end of the one-year trial.
School officials had suggested keeping the street one-way only at morning drop-off and afternoon pickup times, but Galvin feared confusion, noting the variation in the school's schedule (half day on Tuesdays, vacations, summer).
The only complaints he had heard were about inconvenience, which he felt were outweighed by the enhanced safety of the children. Galvin also noted that the school has gained 30 parking spaces on the street.
Maple Street signage
Selectmen also voted to remove the "yield" sign on Brook Street at the intersection with Maple Street, and to place a "stop" sign on Maple Street at the same intersection.
Finally, Galvin discouraged putting a yellow line down the center of Cross Street, as a resident requested, saying pedestrians would be at risk from cars forced to the margin of the narrow road, and it would be difficult for school buses and fire trucks to stay within the line.
© 2003 The