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Northampton to study Bridge Road traffic after complaints

  • Impatient drivers, eastbound on Bridge Road, pass on the right of a car turning left into the JFK Middle School parking lot about 7:45 a.m. Tuesday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Impatient drivers, eastbound on Bridge Road, pass on the right of a car turning left into the JFK Middle School parking lot about 7:45 a.m. Tuesday.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Crossing guard Kenny Sherman stops traffic for JFK Middle School students crossing Bridge Road at Beech Street on Tuesday morning.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Crossing guard Kenny Sherman stops traffic for JFK Middle School students crossing Bridge Road at Beech Street on Tuesday morning.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Crossing guard Kenny Sherman prepares to stop traffic on Bridge Road near Beech Street for JFK Middle School students heading to school Tuesday morning.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Crossing guard Kenny Sherman prepares to stop traffic on Bridge Road near Beech Street for JFK Middle School students heading to school Tuesday morning.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Impatient drivers, eastbound on Bridge Road, pass on the right of a car turning left into the JFK Middle School parking lot about 7:45 a.m. Tuesday.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Crossing guard Kenny Sherman stops traffic for JFK Middle School students crossing Bridge Road at Beech Street on Tuesday morning.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • Crossing guard Kenny Sherman prepares to stop traffic on Bridge Road near Beech Street for JFK Middle School students heading to school Tuesday morning.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

After hearing from about a dozen residents Tuesday who raised safety concerns about Bridge Road traffic between Look Park and North Maple Street, the city’s Transportation and Parking Commission backed the idea of a traffic study and agreed to examine a lower speed limit in front of the school.

“We have speeding vehicles and we have high density,” said Annelise Martin, of Bridge Road. “Pedestrians are not able to cross at the Beech and Oak street crossings.”

The commission voted to ask Mayor David J. Narkewicz to ask the Pioneer Valley Transportation Commission to conduct the traffic study this spring before school lets out. The regional commission offers two free traffic studies to municipalities each year.

The exact parameters for the study must still be hammered out, but it would generally stretch along Bridge Road from its western junction with Route 9, at the new roundabout, to the traffic light at North Maple Street. That stretch of road includes JFK Middle School.

In addition to counting traffic, the study would analyze how fast people drive. That’s key information for future traffic-calming measures.

The commission also agreed to examine whether to impose a reduced speed limit during school hours. State law now allows communities to impose speed limits of 20 mph near schools with students in ninth grade and younger.

The speed limit along most of Bridge Road is 35 mph, though many residents who live along the road say people drive much faster.

“People are so headstrong on flying through,” said John Rollinson, of Bridge Road. “I really feel like we need some help here.”

Most blame the roundabout. Neighbors believe that though the roundabout stops congestion, it encourages drivers to speed.

“Once they reach the straightaway, it’s time to put the pedal to the metal,” said Tom Sadoski, of Bridge Road.

Homeowners who attended Tuesday’s meeting were pleased with developments. The commission agreed to two of the group’s most important requests, but did not address several others.

The group also asked the city to repaint the crosswalks at Beech and Oak streets, to install a push-button crosswalk that would stop traffic, and a traffic light at the Bridge-Oak intersection to help alleviate access issues for about 50 homeowners who live off Spring Grove Avenue.

Many homeowners pleaded for help from the city before it’s too late and someone dies.

“I’m surprised that nobody really yields,” said Mindy Haskins Rogers, who lives on Bridge Road and often takes stroller walks with her young son. “The disregard for the residential nature of the neighborhood is of concern to me.”

John Field, of Oak Street, said he often watches a neighborhood child walk out into the road and stick his hand up to stop cars. He fears what might happen if someone doesn’t see him.

Other residents said the number of tractor-trailers using Bridge Road has grown, and many truck drivers use loud jake brakes to slow down instead of their engine brakes.

“The truck traffic is god-awful,” said Tom Ludwiczak, of Bridge Road. “Most of the trucks, when they see people at the crosswalks, they barely slow down.”

While he supports a lower speed limit in the school zone, Scott Andrew, of Fern Street, worries what happens after school when dozens of children and families head to the middle school to swim, play tennis and other activities.

“Even if we get the 20 mph during school hours, all those other facilities the children use are reasons to slow that traffic down,” he said.

Bridge rd is simply RT 9A (truck route) --- it might as well be labeled that because with the famous low bridge downtown , E/W moving trucks have to take it . This isnt going to change soon so you better get used to it-- or move. Funny how that stupid roundabout isnt even well designed for the 53 foot trailers that take it regularly--- as if the great Noho planners couldnt admit the reality of the commercial traffic that has to use it , and just pretend it was to make things easier for cars going to Look Park.

Obviously someone more "important" than I complained about an issue that has been developing along Bridge Rd. for the last 6+ years. One thing is certain.....the round-a-bout is NOT the reason as mentioned in the article. Trucks are especially dangerous for local traffic because they sail at a speed that does not allow for any control if they had to make a sudden stop. Accessing Bridge Rd from ANY SIDE STREET along the entire road from the old Northampton Nursing Home to Look Park is one very dangerous venture. Our side street happens to be at the top of a hill on the left and a hidden curve on the right. Try and pull out enough to see on one side......and fast enough from the speeders on the other side. Time to reduce the speed limit on the entire road because even though it's 35MPH, most cars travel between 40-50 MPH.

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