2017-06-16 / Front Page

Residents fast track speeding concern

By Wm. Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH — Cape Elizabeth officials say they’re keeping an eye on traffic, but otherwise taking no immediate action to quell speeding on Shore Road and in the Broad Cove development, despite concerns raised by more than a dozen residents at a June 5 town council workshop.

The residents asked for a reduction in speed limits in the area. Some in the audience also suggested opening up a gate on Jordan Pond Road that connects Broad Cove to Two Lights Road to reduce traffic flow by providing more than one way in and out of the neighborhood.

“That’s not going to solve the problem,” said Councilor Caitlin Jordan, expressing what appeared to be the consensus view of her peers, based on comments made. “It’s just going to send those people who are going too fast someplace else. If you have a speeder on one road, they’re going to speed on the other road.”

No formal vote was taken on any of the suggested changes. Instead, Police Chief Neil Williams and the balance of the council urged residents to take matters into their own hands by policing each other and confronting the speeding scofflaws.

“There should be cameras and a way to post pictures to the internet. A little public shaming would go a long way,” Councilor Katharine Ray said.

The decision to conduct a council workshop on the issue was precipitated by a pair of recent emails to the council.

In a May 24 letter, Rich West, an 18-year resident of Shore Road, said “this is now the most difficult time I’ve had,” noting that last year he called police about speeders 11 times. Vehicles doing “at least 40” through the area include tour buses en route to Fort Williams Park, West said. On the day before sending his letter, West said, he witnessed two near incidents in which residents – in one case a woman with a stroller, another a woman and a toddler – were either “nearly clipped” or else reacted in fear of being hit by cars going too fast through the area “from the Cookie Jar to the Stonybrook curve.”

“I’ve had it!” West wrote. “In a town where yet another discussion of raising taxes is taking place, let me add my safety and the safety of walkers, strollers, runners, bicyclists, and others who walk my end of Shore Road to this discussion. I’ve come to a point in this town where when I work on my property in front of my stone wall, I feel like my life is in jeopardy. This is not hyperbole – it’s fact.”

In an earlier email, sent April 14, Hunts Point Road resident Danielle Currier introduced herself as a representative of the Broad Cove Traffic Safety Committee.

“We are a group of people from the neighborhood who have come together out of a need identified by the (Broad Cove) Neighborhood Association to learn more about the speeding issues on our roads,” she wrote.

A survey conducted by the group “found that 91.5 percent of people in the neighborhood have experienced unsafe driving in Broad Cove,” Currier wrote. In one recent incident related by Currier, “there was an accident just this spring with a car who took a turn too fast and ended up plowing through a neighbor’s front yard.”

Using an electronic speed sign provided by the town, the neighborhood traffic safety group tallied more than 19,000 vehicle trips in and out of the Broad Cove development during the span of a single week.

That, residents argued at the June 5 meeting, is evidence that not only are cars whipping down Broad Cove streets at unsafe speeds, the sheer volume of cars presents an additional safety risk. Several people noted that “about 100” homes have been built in Broad Cove since 2000, when the town last looked at the Jordan Pond Road gate and voted 5-1 to deny a petition to pave and open the access point, otherwise used only by safety vehicles.

“When that neighborhood was built, it was to access points. That’s how it was designed,” said Nicole McCarthy, who lobbied hardest in the crowd to open Jordan Pond Road, claiming that the 2000 council decision “came down to politics.”

While councilors promised to review the town’s traffic calming policy, last updated in 2007, none expressed interest in opening the second access point.”

“If you open that up, the people who are speeding past your home are just going to book it even faster on Two Lights (Road), because it’s a straight shot,” Jordan said. “The horrible thing is that because there’s only one way in or out, the people who are doing the speeding are your neighbors – people who live there.”

“If the people in your neighborhood are speeding, that’s a problem, I don’t care how many access points there are,” Ray said. “We all have to adhere to the speed limits, no matter who we are.”

Williams said according to a recent speed survey conducted by his department, the average speed of “almost 8,500 vehicles” calculated an average speed of 26.1 miles per hour. And that, he added, takes into account that many drivers treat electronic speed signs as more of a challenge than a warning.

“Let’s face it, there are people who like to see what kind of number they can get,” he said. “And if we are there 23 out of 24 hours, there are people who are going to take off as soon as leave. We’ll continue to do what we normally do.”

“This sounds like a problem that is, in a way, almost unsolvable,” said Councilor Patricia Grennon said. “We can review our traffic calming policy, we can notify police, but, really, it just has to be a continual effort on your part and an awareness on our part. At least we’re having a conversation and hopefully you’re feeling heard and, hopefully, between these two things, we can try to find some kind of mechanism to get at this.”

“There’s only so much of this that is our responsibility as a council, so this will be a multidisciplinary issue,” said council Chairman Jamie Garvin, promising he and his peers now had the issue on their collective radar.

“I don’t think this is the last conversation we’ll be having on this,” he said.

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