Opinion

State needs to help Saugus slow down

Saugus is making great strides in revamping its public schools and, one by one, the town is sprucing up, in some cases, rebuilding town parks. But traffic safety improvements remain an unmet challenge.

And it’s not Saugus’ fault.

State transportation officials last month rejected a Board of Selectmen request to set 25-mile-per-hour speed limits for Lincoln Avenue, Main Street, Essex Street and Central Street.

Saugus residents and anyone who drives through Saugus on a regular basis knows all four streets rarely see a driver easing along at 25 miles per hour and chances are significant police enforcement would be required to relax the right feet of drivers doing 40, or faster on the town’s main roads.

Selectmen asked the state to approve the speed limit reduction for the most basic reason town officials consider any change in local bylaws: Because residents asked them to make the change.

Robert Hoffman, who along with his wife, Judy, was seriously injured in 2018 when the couple was struck by a speeding car while walking, stood in front of the selectmen with the aid of a cane and asked them to reduce major street speed limits.

His request was backed up by a petition signed by more than 160 town residents.

In rejecting the selectmen’s request, state officials asked for documentation and data before they reconsidered signing off on 25 miles per hour. To his credit, Town Manager Scott Crabtree announced a day before the board vote to lower the speed limit that a town-wide speed limit analysis would be done by an Andover firm.

Working closely with town officials, The Engineering Corporation will identify and study locations in Saugus where traffic volumes and speeds are a concern.

That’s welcome news and the study’s results are sure to be informative. But Saugus’ traffic problems go beyond speeding and traffic volume. Route 1 with its intense traffic use and status as the town’s primary economic generator poses complicated traffic problems encompassing sections of Main, Essex and Walnut streets approaching Route 1, as well as Route 1 on and off ramps and parking lots where accidents involving injuries have occurred.

Speeding is considered a major reason for vehicle accidents and efforts on Saugus’ part to reduce accidents by lowering speed limits should be approved by state officials, subject to the recommendations produced by the traffic study.

The Board of Selectmen are the town’s de facto traffic managers. They did not approach the objective of lowering speed limits lightly. They held hearings on the subject and listened to residents who advocated for lower speed limit.

They have done their job and we hope state officials do theirs by signing off on local speed reductions.

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