Town taking steps to address speed limits 

  • Town Manager Shaun Suhoski, right, discusses safety measures for Route 2A at the most recent meeting of the Athol Selectboard. Board members Lee Chauvette and Holly Young listen. Greg Vine

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 10/7/2019 9:55:12 PM
Modified: 10/8/2019 12:23:30 PM

ATHOL — At its meeting last Tuesday, the Selectboard was updated by Town Manager Shaun Suhoski on steps being taken to begin the process of addressing excessive speed on Route 2A in Athol. The issue arose at the board’s previous meeting when resident Harry Haldt III expressed concern over speed, and the need for sidewalks on two stretches of the roadway.

Suhoski said he was able to have a conversation with two officials from District 2 of the state Dept. of Transportation following that meeting.

“We had a very good discussion, informally,” said Suhoski, “and they followed up promptly with copies of a speed regulation from 1981, that actually governs from Route 32 to just past the South Main Street bridge. Then in 2005, when (Public Works Director) Doug Walsh was able to program resurfacing projects throughout — that was a federal aid project — and that’s another agreement that gets entered into which reinforces that we’ve got to go ask MassDOT before we can do pretty much anything.”

Suhoski said that the town must use caution on its approach regarding the speed limit piece.

“I don’t think we should just ask for a speed study,” Suhoski said, adding that if a speed study is done, and it turns out that the number of motorists speeding is in the 85th percentile, it’s likely the speed limit will be set higher, rather than lower. “That’s what you get. Anecdotally, what I’ve heard is that many times speed limits will go up (after a speed study) when you think you want them to go down.”

Suhoski pointed out that engineers for the state are planning the installation of a traffic signal at the intersection of Routes 2A and 32, which will provide a break in traffic, he said, “and will, as drivers become educated, kind of force everyone to slow down in that area. And there might be other vehicles we could look at in order to target the speed itself.”

Suhoski said the town’s Traffic Safety Committee also planned to discuss the issue. He also told the board that Mass Highway had installed flashing crossing walk lights between the area of the Fire Station and Starrett Avenue.

He said the issue of sidewalks will also be discussed.

“There are funds,” said Suhoski, “and the district staff, they react to where funding is programmed at a level higher than them or us or me. But, they’re aware of this issue. They’re going to start looking at it in the two stretches you’ve identified, from the high school east to North Quabbin Commons, and from Daniel Shays Highway (Route 202) to Hannaford in particular. Not that there aren’t other areas that required it, but one had the fatality and one is a long stretch with a documented increase in traffic.”

“I won’t be able to tell you in two weeks that we’re building sidewalks,” Suhoski concludede, “but we’re working on it. We’ve alerted the folks that need to be alerted. We’ll keep doing that. We’ll engage your board, and Rep. (Susannah) Whipps is aware of it, and we’ll keep working it.”

In his letter of concern, Haldt suggested dropping the speed limit along Route 2A to 25 miles per hour from the high school through town to the Millers River bridge. He added that increased pedestrian usage calls for the construction of sidewalks mentioned by Suhoski.

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