SAUGUS — The town is trying to pump the brakes on pedestrian and other motor vehicle accidents by lowering the speed limit on many streets.
“This is a 40-year problem that we’re trying to resolve,” said Town Manager Scott Crabtree. “Central Street alone has a speed limit that changes, I think, five different times. So, if the police are confused, I’m sure the residents are.”
The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously this week to lower the speed limit from 30 to 25 miles per hour on Bisbee Road, Hanson Road, Iron Works Way, Cider Mill Road, Vinegar Hill Drive, and Hitching Hill Road.
“I know that there have been accidents and I know that people have been driving over the 30-miles-per-hour (limit) on those streets,” said Debra Panetta, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen. “I’m hoping that with this 25-miles-per-hour limit, people will drive at a slower pace and be more careful.”
Selectman Jeff Cicolini made a motion to schedule a public hearing on Jan. 9 to discuss reducing the speed limit on Essex Street, Main Street, Central Street, and Lincoln Avenue to 25 miles per hour.
Fred Moore, an Ella Street resident, is a frequent pedestrian on Hanson Road, where his mother lives.
“I invite any member of the town’s administration to come walk with me,” said Moore. “We’ll have a car drive by at 25 miles per hour and you can tell me whether you feel safe.”
Instead, Moore suggested making the speed limit 15 to 20 miles per hour on Hanson and Bisbee roads.
“Since the Bellevue Heights subdivision (Hanson and Bisbee) has pretty much turned into an exit ramp from the Hamilton Street side and a Hot Wheels track coming from Bellevue Heights,” he said. “It is the neck of the funnel so to speak. It is the only street that comes out to the other side of the hill, so we’re taking the full burden of any traffic.”
Iron Works Way resident Mike Procopio and other neighbors agreed, adding that Bisbee Road is used as a cut-through road to get across town without using Route 1.
“It’s such a tight street, even when you’re going 20 miles per hour, if someone is going over that hill — it’s tight,” said Procopio.
Cicolini said the town might want to look at lowering the speed limit further in the future, but lowering it to any less than 25 miles per hour would require the board to petition the state.
“This isn’t just about speed, it’s really about pedestrian and traffic motor safety,” said Crabtree. “We’ve had a lot of accidents as well as people getting hit. One of the major issues is really the crosswalks as well.”
Last summer, Robert Hoffman stood before the board using a cane to demand measures be taken to create safer streets. Hoffman and his wife Judy were struck along the Northern Strand Community Trail in January. Both suffered serious injuries and were taken to area hospitals for treatment.
This led to dozens of others, pedestrians who had been struck and neighbors advocating for safer streets, to speak out about the problem.
In May, a 24-year-old Lynn man was struck at the intersection of Walnut Street and Walden Pond Avenue while crossing the street wearing headphones.
In 2016, while a 9-year-old and his 15-year-old brother waited for their mother to make a quick stop at Kohl’s, they walked to Walgreens to kill time. A car stopped to let the boys cross Walnut Street, but a 29-year-old Saugus man driving a Nissan Rogue passed the car, striking the 9-year-old in the crosswalk.
The driver turned right into the Walgreens parking lot, dragging him beneath his car.
“I hate to say it but people are dying in this town and they’re dying, in my opinion, at a much faster rate than any other town I see around here,” said Town Meeting member Bill Brown, who also stressed the importance of focusing on the busier roads.
Panetta agreed that the main roads need to be addressed next.