The Town Council’s workshop on traffic last week made one thing clear: long-term fixes take time, money, and coordinated effort. The session was organized to convene town officials, a traffic expert, and residents to both outline the issues and brainstorm solutions. Around 15 to 20 residents logged on to the virtual meeting.
“Speeding is prevalent everywhere in East Greenwich,” said Police Chief Steven Brown. “One hundred percent compliance is never going to happen.”
That said, there are ways to tamp down traffic issues. Brown encouraged the public to be the department’s “eyes and ears,” especially for chronic problems, for instance that car that speeds through an intersection in your neighborhood every day around the same time.
“We can also use the data from [the car-counting] tubes and we can deploy our resources at that time and direct our enforcement to that area at that time,” he said. That’s because those tubes collect a lot more than just the number of cars that pass over them – they can also collect data on time of day and vehicle speeds.
The town has recently installed some solar-powered speed signs – stationary signs that project the speed of oncoming vehicles. They appear to be working well but because they are solar powered, they won’t work on roads with a lot of tree cover (and, as the chief pointed out, EG has a number of those streets).
Another way to slow cars down is by using speed humps (speed bumps are for parking lots, traffic consultant Anna Nova said). For instance, there are speed humps on Cedar Avenue. But they come with problems, such as they can be dangerous at night without enough warning or in bad weather. They can also cause drainage issues, said Public Works Director Joe Duarte, and they get very noisy if tractor trailers are driving over.
“The other thing is they may deter traffic to other roads that are even less able to handle it,” said Duarte.
Another way to handle speeding is to narrow sections of a street, to add raised islands in the middle of a street, or to redesign a street adding bump outs on the sides to change the actual contour of the street. But those changes too come with downsides, especially changes to the contour of the street, at least in a place like New England, with streets that sometimes need to be plowed. And any raised islands need plenty of signage so they are clearly visible at night.
Looking back to when the changes were made to Cedar Avenue, Nova recalled there were 10 to 12 public hearings. “It was not an easy process,” she said.
During public comment, King Street resident Joe Gelineau asked about how to handle traffic issues when alcohol is involved. “Eighty percent of people down here are very respectful but it’s that 10, 20 percent and I just assume they are intoxicated,” he said. “How about one of those lighted speed signs on King Street – it’s a race track for some people.”
Chief Brown said officers who are covering details on the waterfront have been asked to stop anyone leaving who appears to be intoxicated, to make sure they leave in a cab or with a friend and NOT behind the wheel.
Brown encouraged residents to call the station if they see someone driving recklessly. “You’re not bothering us,” he said. (FYI, call 401-886-8640 if it is not an emergency.)
High Hawk resident David Fried wondered if the cost of some fixes (including adding sidewalks) might not be better spent adding more police to the department so there could be more police surveillance of traffic hotspots.
Jeannette Bradley lives in the Lillibridge neighborhood and has a child at Hanaford. “Since the pandemic, the traffic routing at Hanaford is going through to LeBaron. Kids have to walk through this narrow chute of a road,” she told the council. Especially after the blizzard, she said, it didn’t feel safe to walk in the streets.
“A raised sidewalk [there] will be appropriate for the future,” Duarte said. “It’s certainly a future project we’d like to undertake.”
Bradley did thank the town for the brightly-painted crosswalks all around town that came about a couple of years ago to make it safer for children walking to and from school.
Next steps, according to Town Manager Andy Nota, are for town staff to review the points made at the meeting and evaluate the different areas “to see what may be needed and what is appropriate for implementation, in anything, in each area.”
He added, “We will also factor the various perspectives offered in future planning and reconstructive work in select parts of town, such as pedestrian safety, bike lanes and paths, mitigating speed and other safety concerns.”