SAUGUS — The state is pumping the brakes on a request to lower the speed limit to 25 miles per hour on four of the town’s main streets.
The Board of Selectmen, the traffic commissioners of the town, voted to lower the speed limit on Lincoln Avenue, Essex Street, Main Street, and Central Street during a series of meetings earlier this year. This came after they heard pleas from residents to do something about the number of pedestrian and vehicular accidents throughout town.
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 last 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. More than 160 residents signed a petition for the board to lower the speed limit.
The panel voted for the change, but it needed to be approved by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.
In a letter to selectmen, district highway director Paul Stedman wrote that “revising the existing speed zones as requested on Lincoln Avenue, Main Street, and Essex Street would not conform to the current speed regulations.”
For MassDOT to consider modifying these regulations, the town would have to submit proper documentation and data for the roadways under their jurisdiction.
Selectmen tried to alleviate the resident traffic concerns and be responsive by approving the reduction of speed but, based on the response from MassDOT, will not take action on speed limits in town until a traffic study is completed, said Debra Panetta, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen.
“Public safety has always been a priority for the Saugus Board of Selectmen and this administration,” she said. “At this time, we will patiently wait for the results of the study on this important issue.”
The day before the board voted to lower the speed limit, Town Manager Scott Crabtree announced a townwide speed limit analysis would be conducted by The Engineering Corp., an Andover-based transportation, engineering and surveying firm.
The firm will work closely with the town over the next several months to identify and study areas where traffic volumes and speeds are a concern, and take a comprehensive look at suggesting speed limits for town streets and identify the best placement for accompanying signs.
“The safety of our residents and visitors within our town has always been and will continue to be a top priority to this administration and Board of Selectmen,” Crabtree said in a statement.
Crabtree said the goal with the study is to increase protection and peace of mind for walkers and drivers within the community with a consistent, uniform approach.
Selectmen also voted unanimously in December 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.
The state approved this request.
“Since these roadways are considered private ways, speed limits may be established on them,” wrote Stedman.
Should these roads become public ways, a speed study would need to be performed, he said.