WEST NEWBURY — Police Chief Jeff Durand is recommending town officials move to lower the speed limit on Chase Street. The limit on the road is currently unposted, but because the area is not thickly settled the legal limit is automatically 40 mph.
After receiving complaints from a number of residents about vehicles speeding down the road that connects Route 113 to Middle Street, police patrolled and set up radar from April 8 through June 4.
According to a police report dated May 8, Officer Michael Denaro spoke with residents of five Chase Street homes about their concerns.
“All of the residents that I spoke with complained about speeding vehicles on the street, with the worst of the speeding occurring in the morning and afternoon rush hours,” wrote Denaro. There was also a recent uptick in late night traffic, after 9 p.m. They reported discarded alcohol bottles — including an empty full size bottle of bourbon tossed onto one property owner’s front lawn. A majority of vehicles had out-of-state license plates – mostly from New Hampshire, the residents noted.
With a large number of children living on the street who “spend a ton of time outside,” something needs to be done to slow traffic down, said Rich Schneider, of 8 Chase St. “This has been an ongoing problem for the four years we have lived there,” stated in an email to Durand dated May 8.
Police performed 47 radar assignments during which the highest speed observed was 40 mph. No citations were issued. But Durand said that having officers running radar in marked cruisers can itself be a deterrent to speeding cars, so the true speeds being driven on Chase Street at other times could be higher.
The chief met with several residents on the street to discuss the police findings and the process for posting speed limits on a roadway.
“I also told them that I personally felt that 40 mph was too fast for Chase Street given the narrowness of the roadway and that I would support a lowering of the speed limit as well as new signage,” the chief told selectmen on Monday.
“So where do we go from here?” asked Selectmen Chairman David Archibald. Durand proposed a posted 30 mph speed limit, noting that having the limit posted will help with enforcement. While that process works its way through reviews by the Public Works Department and state Department of Transportation, Durand plans to continue assigning patrols for the street. Town Manager Angus Jennings will seek recommendations from the DPW director for other possible signage and traffic calming ideas.
Residents met with selectmen a couple weeks ago to raise their concerns about speeding and littering. At the time selectmen told them that Durand was investigating the problem so they preferred to hear his report before taking any action on the matter.