Speed limit change eyed

Jan 31, 2019 by

Published January 30, 2019


LYNNFIELD — The town is looking to reduce the speed limit in most areas to 25 miles per hour, Town Administrator Rob Dolan announced at the Jan. 22 Board of Selectmen meeting.

Dolan formed a small committee consisting of himself, Assistant Town Administrator Bob Curtin, Police Chief David Breen, DPW Director John Tomasz and Town Engineer Charlie Richter after “hearing (from) members of the Board of Selectmen and the public that speeding has become an issue.”

“We came together to discuss the need to reduce speeding,” said Dolan. “We hope this begins a community-wide conversation about the responsibility of citizens to drive safely and for us to enforce and create the best environment through engineering, signage and education to limit speeding and make Lynnfield a safe place for families, the elderly, the disabled and all citizens.”

Breen said the Police Department has had “numerous complaints” about speeding the last couple of years. He said the Municipal Modernization Act approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker allows communities “to reduce speed limits to 25 mph except as otherwise posted.”

“Every other road in town in a business district or a thickly settled district, which is all of our residential streets, would be reduced to 25 mph,” said Breen.

If Town Meeting approves the change, Breen said the Police Department will be able to enforce the new speed limit.

“This would give us a little more uniformity throughout the main streets,” said Breen. “For instance, Chestnut Street has three different speed limits and it’s not a very long street. It goes from 35 to 25 to 30 and back to 35.”

Breen noted the town “must have signs that are posted at all entryways that say the speed limit is 25 unless otherwise posted.”

“That is to give the general public who don’t live here the general knowledge that the speed limit is 25 and we will be enforcing that,” said Breen.

Breen said local officials want to inform the public about the proposed change because “more often than not, the person getting stopped lives in Lynnfield.”

“We want to try to get the word out,” said Breen. “I did have a discussion with the superintendent of schools and she is in favor of this project. I think this would be a good way to make our streets safer for the kids who walk to school as well as everybody else in town.”

Breen said the speed limit reduction could also lead to less traffic accidents, which he said, “affects our insurance premiums.”

In response to a question from Selectmen Chairman Dick Dalton, Breen said traffic studies conducted by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) would need to be undertaken in order to reduce existing speed limits that are already posted.

Dolan said the communities that have implemented similar programs include Bedford, Belmont, Ipswich, Lexington, Melrose, Middleton, Nantucket, Scituate, Stoneham and Swampscott.

“What I have found previously is when you are entering a community and you see signs that say 25, it makes a statement to all drivers that it’s a 25 mph community,” said Dolan. “Psychologically, it makes you start thinking about driving 25, which is not easy. By sending that message throughout the town, it does make people think about driving and their speed as it pertains to enforcement. It really does work, and it gives discretion to police officers regarding enforcement.”

Selectman Chris Barrett inquired if the town could install flashing signs that state the town’s speed limit is 25. He said a flashing sign is posted in West Peabody.

“It works for me,” said Barrett.

Selectman Phil Crawford noted a similar sign is located near Moynihan Lumber on Chestnut Street in North Reading.

“That used to be a raceway when I was growing up,” said Crawford. “They put in a 25 mph speed limit there and put in enforcement. Now, everybody coming off of Main Street immediately slows right down to 25. Everybody goes 25 until they get to Haverhill Street and pick it up again. It does work well.”

Breen agreed.

“It’s a great place for a 25 mph speed limit,” said Breen.

Dolan said electronic flashing signs will be posted near Huckleberry Hill School and Summer Street School as part of a pilot program. Dolan and Richter were scheduled to meet with the town’s Complete Streets consultant this week to discuss the new initiative.

“We will identify areas where we are lacking pedestrian safety and neighborhood safety,” said Dolan. “If we follow all of the procedures, we would be eligible to receive funding from the state to fund those programs.”

In addition to the electronic signs at the elementary schools, Tomasz said the DPW will be looking to install a hand signal that will allow people to use the crosswalks safely near the two schools.

“It’s very effective and not very expensive,” said Tomasz.

Tomasz said installing the 25 mph signs at the town’s entrance points “affect the thickly settled neighborhoods.”

“Those are homes that are less than 200 feet apart,” said Tomasz. “What you essentially do is capture every neighborhood in town where there isn’t a speed limit posted.”

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