Some local news from my hometown. It's a long but rather interesting read. This is a small town that takes in LOTS of revenue...way over the state per-capita average...from speeding tickets. I bolded a few particularly juicy bits.
Selectmen Jan. 5 got some startling news from the Public Ways Safety Committee. Most of the town’s speed limit signs are out of place, missing or post the wrong speeds.
"The committee finds this very troubling," said safety committee chairman Don Cole.
Police Sgt. Andrew Bagdonas alerted the committee to the signage problem at their Dec. 14, 2005 meeting. Documents Bagdonas obtained from Town Hall show that of the 10 streets in town with posted speeds, only three comply with proper sign placement as specified by the state. Further, some posted speed limits are wrong.
A police cruiser drove the 10 roads (Berlin, East End, Forbush Mill, Hudson, Main Street, Green, Long Hill, Still River, Sugar and Wattaquadock Hill) with a calibrated speedometer/odometer. Results were compared with the Town Hall documentation for speed limits and sign placements. Only Hudson, Green and Forbush Mill Roads were properly signed in both directions.
"For me it was an enlightening experience," Bagdonas said.
Cole explained legal and liability problems. Improper signage could compromise police traffic stops if motorists opt for hearings. Having officers attend such hearings would cost the town in extra labor. Incorrect speed postings that result in an accident could provide grounds for involved motorists to sue the town.
"The situation is making it harder for our officers to do their jobs," Cole said.
Selectman Ken Troup asked how the town got into this situation.
Retired reserve police officer Barbara Brown found some documents in her car that showed that when Wattaquadock Hill Road was rebuilt, northbound got posted at 40 mph when it should have been 30.
Safety committee member Dan Senie said when signs are knocked down for any reason they might be resurrected in the wrong place. Public Works Director Harold Brown said that insurance companies tend to replace the signs in the wrong spots. The only way to do it exactly is with a measuring wheel, he said.
Bagdonas said that once sign locations were wheeled, the town could easily build a signage database with Global Positioning System technology marking the exact sites. With town growth and changes in traffic patterns, he suggested it might be a good time to take a fresh look at speed limits.
In one location, officials were loath to make corrections. Proper signs at the intersection of Manor Road, Harvard Road and Main Street would result in higher posted speeds. The committee recommended posting the speeds properly then immediately asking MassHighway for a review. Selectman Panny Gerken did not like raising the limit at that accident-prone spot for any length of time.
The speed that 85 percent of drivers are traveling under is considered to be the appropriate speed limit for that road, said Interim Police Chief William George. If most drivers go over the posted speed, the limit for the road could be raised.
Members of the safety committee said that MassHighway typically hands speed studies back to the towns that requested them. That way, towns have an opportunity to influence the outcome, implied Barbara Brown and safety committee member Cia Boynton.
For example, Lincoln has little old ladies drive the road in question to lower the limit, Boynton said.
But the state confirms a town’s results, Harold Brown said, to doubts from Senie.
Changes must comply with the law
The safety committee said the cost to fix the signage is low. A speed limit sign with post costs about $100. Existing speed limit signs could be recycled.
The selectmen were concerned that corrections comply with the letter of the law and agreed with Barbara Brown’s suggestion that all sign postings be compared with current MassHighway information.
The safety committee and public works department will work out how many signs are needed and install them. Gerken suggested the police prioritize the locations. Wilder Road was most critical, said Bagdonas. On westbound Wilder Road, 35 mph and 25 mph signs are erroneously transposed.
Among other actions, the selectmen approved the safety committee recommendation to correct signage and lane markings at the intersection of Fox Run and Route 117, so that the westbound deceleration lane does not appear to be a parking lane on the main road.
Interim Police Chief William George will review recommendations for safety improvements at the intersection of Wattaquadock Hill Road, Old Lancaster Road and Water Street. The committee said that residents have seen tractor trailers bound for Clinton miss the left turn to Water Street then back up around the blind corner on Wattaquadock Hill. The committee’s recommendations are to add on Wattaquadock Hill a stop sign at the road junction, a stop ahead sign just before the curve, painted stop lines, and a green posted information sign pointing left to Clinton.