New Fairfield’s Traffic Authority Committee held a Special Meeting on Thursday, January 12. At the meeting, members discussed changes in state rules on speed limit regulation and agreed to take control of setting speed limits for all Town roads.
First Selectman Ms. Pat Del Monaco explained that recent changes impact “state rules on setting speed limits.” Towns used to apply to the State and would go through processes to determine whether altering a speed was necessary. She said, “we would still be required to do engineering studies to develop the speed limit…the town engineer is going to get an idea of what those engineering studies would cost per road.” She clarified that the Town would pay for those studies regardless of who determines speed limits. Selectman Ms. Lori Beninson commented on opting-in for the local Traffic Authority to establish, modify, and maintain speed limits on the roadways in New Fairfield, saying, “we know our roads, our officers give us guidance and counsel from what they see day to day.”
Officer Jason Cassavechia reported on the roads in Town that have speed issues, chiefly Warwick Road, followed closely by Bigelow Road. He said of Warwick Road, “It’s a Town road with a very high speed limit. The other roads, the majority, if not all of the Town roads are 25 [mph]. The private communities we have very little say in.” He went on to say, “Warwick Road is clearly an issue with high pedestrian traffic—bicyclists, people with their dogs—it’s a neighborhood with a throughway running basically through it.” It was noted that at one point, Warwick Road was State owned and operated and that they had increased the speed limit to its current 40 miles per hour. Selectman Ms. Khris Hall pointed out that many residents have signed a petition requesting a lower speed limit on that road.
Del Monaco said of the Warwick speed issue, “I think the biggest thing is going to be the engineering study that has to be done and getting that lined up and frankly, getting it paid for.” The study will look at the traffic count, the average daily speed count, and the number of accidents on the road over a certain period. Cassavechia stressed, “we could probably save a significant amount of money by utilizing the statistics that we have, from the solar speed sign…it’s going to give us the average speed and the accidents, I can easily do that myself.” Del Monaco plans to check the guidelines to be sure that this data can be used.
Bigelow was discussed for potential review, with Cassavechia agreeing to investigate the potential speed issues on that road. “I do get a lot of complaints about Bigelow Road.” If not a speed limit change, they will at least look into additional signage on that road as well. Old Farm Road was also noted as a road with major speed issues, as people use it as a cut through.
Cassavechia pointed out that there are many motor vehicle accidents in front of the Town Beach. However, it is a State Road, which limits options. In discussing the merits or challenges of speed bumps, it was pointed out by Del Monaco that speed bumps “present problems for us when we’re maintaining the roads, especially in the winter with plows.” Speed bumps can also reduce sight lines, so a car will slow down to go over a speed bump. “If there’s not enough of a sight distance then you have a situation where that car will get rear ended by the next car. So, there’s a very narrow application for them is what I have learned,” Del Monaco said. Cassavechia also said that he is concerned about Inglenook and the future possible need to reengineer that road.
By Sarah Opdahl