Selectmen hope cracking down on speeders will make Rt. 81 safer
By: Stan Fisher, Special to the Recorder
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KILLINGWORTH - Concerned about the potential for a deadly encounter between fast-moving commuter traffic and school buses on Route 81, selectmen are asking state police to crack down on speedy drivers and exploring safety measures.
Region 17 school buses are in peril as they enter and leave Killingworth Elementary School and the Haddam/Killingworth district's newly opened intermediate/middle school, town and school officials say.
David Roberts, a Region 17 bus driver who lives across from the intermediate/middle school on Route 81 in Killingworth, told selectmen, "There's a dangerous and potentially deadly problem (for buses at the two schools)."
"There's no one out there controlling traffic ... There are no flashing lights at the middle school, and we have 10 buses pulling out of the elementary school with cars coming down 81 at 40-60 m.p.h.," he said.
"There's going to be a big accident out there," he declared.
Selectmen agree, particularly with a greater volume of bus traffic serving the new school, that the situation must be quickly addressed.
First Selectman Martin Klein said the state Department of Transportation has agreed to install flashing lights near the middle school's entrance, but refused the traffic light requested by town and Region 17 officials.
Selectman Edward Sipples, accompanied to a recent meeting with the DOT by Region 17 Superintendent Gary Mala, said state officials saw the middle school's location too close to the signaled intersection of Routes 148 and 81 to warrant a stop light.
The situation recalls the four years of effort by Clinton officials and police to convince the DOT to install a signaled crossing at The Morgan School on Route 81. The device was installed in 2002, after a car struck a pedestrian.
Killingworth selectmen believe the flashing lights are sufficient to ensure the safety of Region 17 buses. "Wait'll we put another 300 students in there," Klein said of the middle school, which will not house its full student body until the fall.
"They're our children, it's our responsibility, we have to do something," Klein said.
While Killingworth has no constables to perform traffic duty, and its resident state trooper cannot handle that task, selectmen plan to ask residents who have performed similar service at town fairs and other gatherings to direct traffic at the two schools.
And, Klein said, they plan to ask other school districts with traffic monitors whether the hiring and cost of such personnel is regarded as a town or school responsibility.
Finally, he said, "We're asking the trooper not to be bashful about issuing (speeding) tickets."