Plainfield removes new speed limit signs after legal questions arise

  • Plainfield Town Hall WIKI COMMONS

For the Gazette
Published: 8/16/2019 4:38:34 PM

PLAINFIELD — Now you see them, now you don’t.

That may be what some drivers on North and South Central streets in Plainfield may be feeling after the 25 mph speed limit signs the town installed two weeks ago were removed on Thursday morning.

Select Board Chairman Howard Bronstein said that the signs, which read: “Thickly Settled 25 mph” were put up by the town’s Highway Department after a section of town had been designated a thickly settled area.

However, after a discussion with town resident Gerry Connell at a Select Board meeting on Tuesday, the board along with Police Chief Justin Litchfield and Highway Superintendent Mert Taylor decided to remove the signs until legal questions could be addressed.

Connell maintains that the new signs were illegally placed on town roads in violation of state law and he said he believes a traffic study is required to change existing speed limits on that stretch.  

“The town has not followed the prescriptive requirements of the law,” Connell alleged, referring to Massachusetts General Law Chapter 90 section 18. 

“I think at the moment they may be talking with the state but they don’t have it in black and white and you can’t get it done unless you are papered up,” he said. 

Connell said that he was worried that if the town did not properly “do its homework,” as he put it, and was in violation of the law, then it could lose its state Chapter 90 highway funding which goes to road maintenance, plowing and repairs.

He also said that he was concerned that drivers who receive a speeding ticket “could unknowingly find themselves not only paying an unjustified ticket, but also face the specter of surcharges on their insurance.”

Connell told the Select Board that he wanted the signs removed or he would take the town to court.

Bronstein said that the Select Board has been working with Francesca Hemming, the District 1 Director of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. He said the board has not received any indication from the state agency that there was a problem with the way the town was moving forward with reducing the speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph.  

“Its very frustrating, because the board, our Police Chief and Highway Supervisor have been working closely with the courts and the DOT, and we will continue to do so,” Bronstein said.

According to Plainfield Police Chief Justin Litchfield, North and South Central streets had previously been unmarked, but the speed limit had been 30 mph.

He also noted that the area has seen many problems with people driving over that speed limit.

“A lot of people didn’t know that it was a 30 mile an hour speed limit there in the first place,” Litchfield said. “We haven’t issued any citations, but we have been trying to get people to slow down, and the signs would help let them know what the speed limit is.

Bronstein said that if there is a technicality in the law that the town has inadvertently missed, the Select Board would be happy to comply with whatever is required.

“That has been our intention all along,” he said. “We are doing this for public safety and in the best interest of the town.”

To that end, Litchfield said that the signs were removed, until all of the necessary paperwork has been officially approved by the Boston office of the DOT.

“I am not sure how long it takes, but now we are just waiting for the DOT to send back their approval,” Litchfield said.




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