November 13, 2014 03:00PM
By DALE P. FAULKNER
Sun Staff Writer
WESTERLY — If you drive on Winnapaug Road you might have to slow down as the speed limit, from Airport Road to Shore Road, has been reduced from 40 mph to 35 mph on a one-year trial basis.
Signs bearing the new speed limit were put up recently. The one-year trial was approved by the State Traffic Commission after years of conversations and requests from two Westerly legislators, Sen. Dennis Algiere and Rep. Samuel Azzinaro.
Both lawmakers said they have received frequent complaints, from residents who live on the road and in the area, of speeders and other reckless driving.
Algiere succeeded in having additional traffic signs placed on the road about one year ago, but he continued to hear from residents who said more had to be done to slow motorists on the roadway, a popular route to the beaches. He and Azzinaro continued to talk with state officials and those efforts resulted in the lowering of the speed limit.
At the conclusion of the trial period, the traffic commission will review speed and crash data and determine whether to keep the 35 mph limit or revert to 40 mph. To further address safety concerns, state officials are continuing to study the intersection of Winnapaug and Airport roads with an eye toward reconfiguring the area.
“In the meantime we’ll have a lower speed limit. Hopefully that will help a bit,” Algiere said, adding that he had spoken with Police Chief Edward St. Clair to emphasize the role that enforcement plays in slowing motorists.
Azzinaro has been working to improve safety on the road for at least three years. He noted that most other roads in the area have speed limits of 25, 30, or 35 mph.
“On a road with a couple of curves like Winnapaug Road, 40 mph doesn’t make sense,” he said.
In a letter to Azzinaro, Steven Pristawa, secretary of the State Traffic Commission, said the width of Winnapaug Road and its shoulders were designed for 40 mph and a reduction in the posted speed limit was not likely to result in an actual reduction of speed without additional enforcement and changes to the physical characteristics of the road, including the possible development of sidewalks. If the town is interested in sidewalks for the roadway it must apply for inclusion of the project as part of the State Planning Council’s Transportation Improvement Program, Pristawa said.
Town Manager Michelle Buck, St. Clair, Pristawa and other town and state officials toured the roadway on Nov. 19.
“We discussed, in general, some alternative designs for the intersection and the traffic problems that we face there, particularly in the summer. The state engineers promised to do a preliminary investigation regarding the possibilities based on the amount of land and ownership thereof,” Buck said.
The officials plan to talk again in January, she said.
The State Traffic Commission has studied the speed limit on the entire stretch of Winnapaug Road three times since 2010. The speed limit between Airport Road and Watch Hill Road was reduced to 35 mph after the first study. Between the 2012 study and one in September 2013 there were eight crashes on the road, down from 12 in 2010 and 10 in 2012, Pristawa said. Most of the crashes occurred at the intersection of Winnapaug and Airport roads.