NORTH SMITHFIELD – Speeding has gotten so bad on Iron Mine Hill Road, say residents in the area, that it’s become nearly impossible for pedestrians to feel safe in this neighborhood off Eddie Dowling Highway.
Residents showed up to a July 18 meeting to call for traffic-calming measures, including possible implementation of speed humps (more gradual than bumps) or cameras.
Gail Christie, of 158 Sayles Hill Road, said she lives at the corner of Iron Mine Hill and has for some 60 years. The situation has become a whole lot worse in this area known in town as the s-curves, she said, with people driving faster and not paying attention, including plenty of cell phone use.
As drivers start going up the hill through the stop sign, they start gunning it, said Christie, who noted the addition of five new houses on the s-curve and more residents overall in the area. With no sidewalks for pedestrians, she said, residents here have really become concerned about their safety, as well as what the future could bring with more traffic from the pending Eddie Dowling Highway upgrades, with more drivers coming through to get to Greenville Road.
Police put a monitoring machine out at the s-curves and found people going between 50 and 55 mph in a 25-mph zone, said Christie. Perhaps camera tickets would do the trick in motivating them to slow down, she said, pointing out that speed humps also worked well to dramatically reduce speeds on Reservoir Road in Cumberland.
Christie said she thinks there’s an easy fix available to stop some of the dangerous activity people are experiencing.
Chris Harvey, of 309 Iron Mine Hill Road, joined Christie in representing Iron Mine Hill residents. People are driving way over 25 mph, he said, and police can’t monitor all the time. Speeding is happening at all hours, he said, with his home’s cameras picking it up at 3 a.m. There’s no place for police to sit where they aren’t out in the open, he said.
According to Harvey, drivers have grown angry with residents who ask them to slow down, cursing and throwing them the middle finger. He said the speed monitor was in his yard, which had many people expressing anger toward him, choosing to gun their engines as an act of rebellion. The speeding issue here is not limited to any one age group, Harvey said.
“Anything you could do, we’d really appreciate it,” he told the council, noting how one mother out for a walk with her child even had to jump up on a wall to avoid an erratic driver.
There are more people here and more driving fast, said Christie, and residents are truly afraid that something bad will happen if behaviors aren’t changed.
Councilor Paul Vadenais said he visited the area and saw the new houses going up and noticed that there’s some confusion with the intersection that may be leading to people not stopping at the stop sign. He asked that town staff check out the situation.
Vadenais said the town may have contributed to the speeding situation here by doing something good, in repaving Iron Mine Hill Road.
Councilor Claire O’Hara said the speeding issue is happening throughout town, saying “Greenville Road is like a speedway.” She said she goes 5 mph over the speed limit, as she’s heard is acceptable, and people are passing her in no-passing areas. O’Hara said she remembers a time when no new houses were being built and there were cornfields here. Having no setback where people can walk is very dangerous, she agreed.
Resident and retired Rev. Joe Paquette also mentioned how police have few options available to them to address the situation, with no place to hide. He said he knows cameras would be expensive, but they could also be an asset to the town in generating revenue. He implored the town to do anything in response, saying that so many people walk up and down this street.
Vadenais responded that the speed cameras are used in school zones. Communities everywhere are seeing these traffic problems, he said, with plentiful delivery trucks adding to the havoc.
“It’s dangerous for them as well,” said Harvey, referring to the delivery drivers.
Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski said traffic concerns are nonstop. Old Smithfield Road had to be turned into a one-way road because it was “death waiting to happen,” he said.
Zwolenski noted that there have been discussions about humps or bumps, but cautioned that traffic studies show the devices sometimes make things worse, with drivers gunning their engines between the humps.
The town can look into cameras or those speed signs that tell someone how fast they’re going. He said those signs tend to be fairly effective as a visual deterrent in alerting people to how fast they’re going.
There are also some small visual things the town can do, he added, such as painting a line at the stop sign. Zwolenski said that in addition to the challenge of police not being able to be discreet in the area, they’re also limited on staffing, with only two or three patrol cars covering a 25-square-mile town and police often having to deal with the “mayhem” of the Route 146 shopping area. When they can complete posts, it has a dramatic impact, he said.
Zwolenski said he’ll talk to the police chief about what they can do. He said it’s a good bet that the majority of the speeders being complained about are town residents.
Councilor Kim Alves concluded the discussion by asking for more patrols as a temporary solution while the town considers more permanent changes.