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Residents living in fear of speeders

WESTERLY — One resident says drivers treat it as if it’s I-95; another says it’s a virtual racetrack. And members of the Town Council say they are committed to putting the brakes on the problem of speeding motorists on Winnapaug Road.

“Between Airport Road and Shore Road on Winnapaug Road it’s like a race track. It finally perturbed me quite a bit because I was nearly hit the other day,” Nick Worobey told the Council Monday.

Worobey, whose residence at 176 Winnapaug Road is along what he says is a dangerous stretch, has been trying for years to get the state to reduce the posted speed limit on Winnapaug Road, from Airport Road to Shore, from 40 mph to 30 mph.

“I’m asking for you to somehow band together and help me out with this and help my neighbors,” Worobey said.

According to Worobey’s research, since 1986 there have been 8 fatalities on the stretch of road, five of those were related to excessive speed and four involved drunk drivers.

In addition to helping with the speed limit, Worobey asked Police Chief Edward St. Clair to arrange for regular sobriety checkpoints on the road. Worobey said he often observes drivers failing to stay in their lane of traffic. Judging by what he said is a large number of bottles and cans left along his driveway, Worobey said he believes much of the drunk driving involves people who bring alcohol to the beach area and then drive home under the influence.

Robert Turco, also a Winnapaug Road resident, said emergency vehicles often fly by his house at a high rate of speed, akin to those used on highways.

Taking the suggestion of Councilor Patrica Douglas, the council decided to enlist the aid of State Sen. Dennis Algiere, R-38, and state Rep. Sam Azzinaro, D-37. The two legislators will be invited to a future council meeting. In the meantime, Council President Diana Serra asked Interim Town Manager Michelle Buck to write to the State Traffic Commission asking to have the speed limit reduced. Serra noted that previous requests by the town had resulted in the commission saying studies showed the speed limit was appropriate for the area. Worobey questioned the methods used by the commission and noted that the speed limit on Airport Road, approaching Winnapaug Road, is 35 mph, and that the speed limit on lower Winnapaug Road, closer to Atlantic Avenue, is 25 mph.

Douglas asked why there are flashing lights on speed limit signs in Watch Hill but not other parts of the town. “Are we orphans?” Douglas asked.

“We need to talk about this issue of speeding on our roads. There is no reason we can’t have lower speeds on our roads that we live on year round,” Douglas said, adding that drivers pick up speed once they leave the Watch Hill village area, making it difficult to access Watch Hill Road from side streets.

St. Clair said the installation of signs with flashing lights was the result of persistent efforts by Watch Hill residents who succeeded in getting the state’s attention.

Councilor Caswell Cooke Jr. said the town should consider putting up its own signs.

“We all agree the speed limit is insane on that street, there is a problem,” Cooke said, referring to Winnapaug Road, in the area where Worobey and Turco live.

One councilor said lowering the posted speed limit is only part of the solution.

“Ultimately it comes down to one thing — enforcement,” Councilor Jack Carson said.

Carson, who frequently travels Winnapaug Road on his way to work, said he would not walk on any paved part of Winnapaug Road for fear of getting hit by a passing motorist.

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