Rebuilt Northampton road’s rules leave many travelers puzzled
EDITOR’S NOTE: As of noon Wednesday, reader response to Monday’s story about the 25 mph speed limits on Route 66 in Northampton was nearly unanimous: Officials should take a fresh look at how fast vehicles can safely travel.
In this space, we offer excerpts of 17 comments sent to the Gazette in reply to an invitation that accompanied Monday’s story by staff editor Margot Cleary. No one spoke up for keeping speeds as is. A copy of these comments and others received at firstname.lastname@example.org will be forwarded next week to the city’s DPW chief and to state highway officials.
NOT HORSES AND BUGGIES: A new highway and the speed limit is 25 mph. How stupid is that? Highway officials most certainly should conduct a study. My husband must drive Route 66 three mornings a week around 5:30 a.m. When I drive, I choose to go Loudville, West Street to Route 10. It is almost impossible to keep my car at 25 mph. (You are not talking horse and buggy days!) I think that the speeding tickets are a money-maker for the city of Northampton.
MAKE IT SAFER: Please help to change Route 66 to a 45 mph road. This road is much safer, straighter, wider and better paved than most of the 40 mph roads in our area. It is ridiculous for people to be ticketed for going at a rate of speed that is totally appropriate and safe for that road.
daily Route 66 traveler
LIMIT IS ABSURD: I am the person who wrote the letter to the editor which you cited in the article. Even during the short amount of time that has transpired since I wrote the letter I have been involved in additional incidents. While adhering to the 25 mph limit, a person was crowding me from behind and eventually passed me on the right. I got his license number and reported him to the police, but I’m sure nothing was done. I also met a state trooper at our local farmstand and asked him about the speed limit. He admitted it was “crazy.” I can’t help but think that (Councilor Marianne) LaBarge must be representing some group of residents that live in the area. I also live on Route 66 in Westhampton.
The posted speed limit is absurd. Even the center of town in Westhampton is 30 mph. Perhaps LaBarge ought to take a drive on the stretch of road she is so vigorously maintaining should have a limit of 25 mph. Perhaps she should drive it every day, twice a day, and take her life in her hands as we commuters must do. Let’s be reasonable, do the “speed study” that should have been done in the first place, and come up with a realistic and safe number.
Even our highways have maximum and minimum standards. The current limit is well below the minimum standard for the type of road we are talking about. Thanks for addressing this public safety issue in your publication.
OBSOLETE SPEEDS: Please have the state recalibrate the speed limits on Route 66. They are obsolete since the road was redone. I know the police are only enforcing the existing laws and speed limits, but they are taking advantage of a mismarked road by waiting to catch people not going 25 mph.
LETTER TO COUNCILOR: (This is an email the writer sent to Councilor LaBarge.) I read with great interest (the) Gazette article regarding the speed limit on Route 66. I must admit, I have long felt the same as the writer — the speed limits on 66 are too low, and quite frankly encourage frustration, anger and aggressive driving. I do not agree with you that the limits are correct just because the state set them. It is my understanding that you lobbied for those limits to stay the same as when the road was in much worse condition and design. I would like to request that the speed limits are evaluated. The improvements to the road have unquestionably made the road safer, and able to accommodate higher limits.
I do not mean for you to take away that I would be an advocate for 50 mph limits — I would not. However, if the road was built for 35 mph limits, I do not see 35 mph as unreasonable. I would appreciate hearing from you ... (how to) start the process to have the speed limits of the road evaluated.
NEED for ‘OOMPH’: Thank you, Margot Cleary, for writing about the crazy speed limits on Route 66. Geez, on Route 9 near Florence center the speed limit is 45 — and Route 66, out in nowheresville, is 25 and 30 with brief moments of 35? The killer for me is the 25 mph up the curved, steep hill — if I had my old VW bug, we wouldn’t even make it up the hill with that speed limit. Hasn’t anyone ever heard that you need a little oomph going up a hill? Then on the top it’s 25! Flat riding, clear view of the road, and 25?
Clearly there are people who go way too fast on that road, and it is hard to maintain even 5 to 10 above the speed limit with those people breathing down your neck, but the 25 mph has to go. That is really silly, especially when you hit the Westhampton line and the speed is 45. From 25 to 45? Something is really wrong there. I really do hope that the limits are re-examined and adjusted upward.
ROAD RAGE WITNESS: I, too, have had similar experiences as the author of the article. I live in Westhampton and travel to Northampton often. I have been tailgated and illegally passed as well as honked at and given the finger. A speed limit of 25 mph is definitely too slow since the road work has been completed. Please raise it to 35 mph.
COMMUTER’S VIEW: I travel Route 66 from end to end on average four times a week and find the disparity of the speed limits between Westhampton (45 mph) and Northampton (25 mph) to be out of touch with what is prudent. The original speed limit was set nearly 30 years ago when the road was winding, pothole-ridden and somewhat dangerous. Since it has been reconfigured, re-paved and sharp curves have been made straight, the logical thing to do is to increase the speed to a safe but cautious limit. If 85 percent of motorists are traveling a safe speed of 35-40 mph and the accident rate is diminished, why not make the legal limit 40 mph? The days of making money off of speed traps by setting the speed limit arbitrarily low should come to a halt.
CLARIFYING VIEWS: I believe the 25 mile per hour speed limit on the curves is too slow and can cause problems such as those the reporter described. Yes, I believe one can safely, under normal conditions, drive the curves at 40 mph. However, since many if not most people drive at least a little over the legal speed limit, I think 30 miles per hour would be an appropriate limit in that area.
That is especially true because there are no sidewalks in that area, and there are walkers and cyclists on the road at times. West of Loudville Road, I think the speed limit should be increased to 35, since the road there is straighter, there are fewer homes and at the Westhampton line the limit jumps to 45 mph. The reporter and I never discussed the speed limit of any other section of the road.
While there may be sections of Route 66 where limits are now 30 mph and could safely be 35 mph, I do not have a firm opinion on what sections those might be.
DO THE STUDY: We should absolutely conduct a study to assess the current speed limits on Route 66. Unreasonably low limits encourage widespread disdain for the law.
Nicholas R. Howe
WAS WONDERING: My husband and I are new to the area and discovered the really silly speed limits on Route 66, and wondered what on earth was the story. Thank you for your article, and please consider this a request from two people that the speed limit study, blocked by one person, be conducted.
— Jean O’Neil
NOT RIGHT WELCOME: Taxpayers spent millions to upgrade that road to the highest safety standards and it is still being treated like it’s a dirt road from the past. How many modern cars can even coast down that hill at 25 mph without using their brakes or shifting to low gear?
How many drivers have lost their safe driving credits by getting caught in Northampton’s speed trap?
There is no justification for having this ridiculously low speed limit on this section of Route 66. For decades the speed limit through the Route 9-Bridge Road-Look Park intersection used to be 40 mph. Repeated attempts to get that limit lowered to 35 mph were rejected by the state Highway Department because the road met state standards for the higher speed.
Why is Route 66, a state highway, not being held to the same standards? Northampton’s leaders have repeatedly worked toward making the entrances to the city more welcoming. A newly upgraded highway with a 25 mph speed trap is not the way to say “Welcome to Northampton.”
— Richard Guzowski
NO LONGER A DEER TRAIL: I am a resident of Huntington and have been traveling Route 66 since the early 1960s. In those days the road was little more than a paved deer trail — narrow, bumpy, curvy and at times in the winter, rutty. In many sections of the road, you could not travel more than 25 mph and stay on the road.
Thankfully, those days are gone. Route 66 has been completely rebuilt and is now a wider, straighter, smoother and safer road than several other roads into the Hilltowns, for example Route 9.
As to the present speed limits, 25 mph on the rebuilt Route 66 does not make any sense. The speed limits through Huntington and Westhampton are 35 to 45 mph with house densities similar to those in Northampton where the speed limits are still 25 to 30 mph — the same as they were on the pre-rebuilt road.
A speed limit of 25 mph makes sense from Hospital Hill into downtown Northampton, but not on most sections of Route 66 before this point.
I would hope that state highway officials will take another look at the posted speed limits and adjust them more realistically.
— Kenneth Barrows