Athol looks at dropping speed limits on Route 2A

  • Athol resident Harry Haldt III asks the Selectboard at a recent meeting to consider dropping speed limits and constructing sidewalks along portions of Route 2A between North Quabbin Commons and Daniel Shays Highway. From left are Haldt, Town Counsel John Barrett, and board members William Chiasson and Stephen Raymond. Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 9/20/2019 9:55:23 PM
Modified: 9/20/2019 9:55:09 PM

ATHOL – In response to correspondence from a concerned citizen, the Selectboard has instructed Town Manager Shaun Suhoski to communicate with the state about the town’s desire to drop speed limits and install sidewalks along a couple of sections of Route 2A.

In a letter to board Chair Rebecca Bialecki, Lenox Street resident Harry Haldt III said the up-tick in economic development in Athol – particularly “North Quabbin Commons, the expanded Athol Hospital, and revitalization efforts in downtown Athol” – has resulted in a marked increase in traffic, including more motorists from out of town. Haldt pointed out that the speed limit on Route 2A westbound between North Quabbin Commons and Daniel Shays Highway/Route 202 changes six times, with limits ranging from 25 to 45 miles per hour. Heading east, the posted speed limits differ from those posted,westbound.

“Technically,” he said, “you can be going 30 mph on one side of the street and 25 mph on the other side of the street.”

“There’s increased traffic being generated by the addition to the hospital,” Haldt told the board. “You’ve got the fire department, businesses uptown, people walking, students walking with their phones paying no attention to what they’re doing, people crossing at crosswalks or otherwise, and I don’t see any reason why you can’t slow people down. I’ve seen many cars come to a screeching halt with people stepping into the street.”

Suhoski said the issue of speed limits on 2A had been raised once before and was told by the Dept. of Transportation that the highway is technically under the jurisdiction of the state.

“It doesn’t mean we can’t fight this,” said Suhoski, “but it’s going to become a political effort.”

“I think there’s almost a two-step process,” said Board Chair Rebecca Bialecki. “I think we need to do both, because it is a critical and urgent safety issue. Lowering the speed is a relatively quicker way to address some of the safety concerns. But, going forward, I know we’ve always had a need for sidewalk space running toward Hannaford Plaza, but right now I think the more urgent need is the stretch from the high school up to North Quabbin Commons.”

“I think both ends of it are urgent,” said board member Stephen Raymond.

“We need to engage our legislators on this to help with MassDOT,” said Suhoski. “The political will is where their resources go.”

“We’ve done a lot of investment here in Athol, to have a stronger economy, be more self-sufficient,” said Bialecki, “and if these kind of infrastructure supports from the state can help us maintain and continue to grow, I don’t see how they could say that’s not a priority for them, too.”

The board ultimately voted to have Suhoski send a letter to the Dept. of Transportation and to state Senator Ann Gobi and state Representative Susannah Whipps advising them the town wants to see the establishment of 25 mph speed limit for Route 2A, as well as the construction of sidewalks along South Main Street and between the high school and North Quabbin Commons.

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