Residents on Maple Grove Drive and Kathy Way are at loggerheads over attempts to curb traffic speeds on Maple Grove.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The residents from two streets in a divided neighborhood clashed this week during a tumultuous meeting of the city's Traffic Commission on Thursday.
Maple Grove Drive homeowners seeking a speed-limit reduction implored the commission to help rectify what they described as a serious threat to neighborhood safety.
But their request is opposed by many on neighboring Kathy Way, who must use Maple Grove to to reach their circular street.
Maple Grove resident Debbie Storie and others asked the Traffic Commission to endorse a petition setting the speed on the street to 15 miles per hour, or to use other measures possible to reduce speeds on the street.
"We're very concerned for the safety not only of the children but of any walkers or bicyclists that might be using the roadway as well as for the residents," said Storie.
Storie also asked that the commission endorse the idea of the city closing Brattle Brook Park, which she said adds to an increase in unwanted traffic. She said a vehicle she saw turning into the park smelled of marijuana.
"Any support that you could do to closing Brattle Brook Park to cross through traffic would be greatly appreciated as well," Storie told the commission.
A push for reducing driving speeds on Maple Grove first gained momentum last year, when a petition for enforcing a low speed limit came before the Traffic Commission in September. At that time, the commission made residents aware that to set or alter a speed limit would require a costly speed study, which would automatically result at the limit being set at whatever speed 85 percent of drivers are currently traveling at. The commission referred the issue to the City Council, with a recommendation for increased police presence.
Matthew Roccabruna, whose complaints were instrumental in Ward 3 Councilor Paul Capitanio's original petition, said the problem has not improved, and that hostilities between neighbors on the two streets has escalated over the issue.
"I use the word neighborhood loosely, as this issue has divided us more than it has united us," said Roccabruna, who accused Kathy Way residents of retaliation against him because of his efforts. "Our children are becoming fearful in our own yard."
Erica Roccabruna seconded this claim of neighbor animosities, complaining of having had their car keyed and house egged several times in recent months.
"Something has to be done, and something must be done," said Richard Latura, who does not live in the immediate vicinity but is running for council in Ward 3 this fall. "These streets were not built to accommodate the kinds of traffic that go over them, especially at the speeds they do."
While murmurs of disagreement could be heard from numerous Kathy Way residents in the room throughout the proceeding, only one, Michael Stracuzzi, addressed the commission directly in opposition to a speed reduction.
"We cannot go 15 miles per hour, that's just crazy," said Stracuzzi. "You can go that fast on a bicycle."
Stracuzzi opined that part of the problem is unattended children in the road. "As a parent, you have to be responsible to watch your children, on a small street."
"The bottom line is, it's just unnecessary," Amy Wolfe of Kathy Way, who could not attend, told iBerkshires after the meeting. "It's not like there is anyone on our street that is going 40 through there."
With a postable speed limit of 15 mph being a virtual impossibility under the strictures of Massachusetts transportation law, members of the commission outlined other possible approaches to achieving increased safety.
City Councilor Christopher Connell, who sits on the commission, suggested implementing speed humps on Maple Grove as one means of addressing the perceived problem.
"This is something we can do without a speed study, and it is a deterrent," said Connell.
"I would love to lower speed all over the city," said Commissioner Peter White. "We don't have the power to do that."
City Engineer Matthew Billetter said there are currently a lot of requests for speed humps coming in, and the highway department may not be able to fill all those requests in a timely fashion.
Police Capt. John Mullin, who also sits on the commission, suggested that Maple Grove, while lacking a set speed limit (a current yellow sign for 25 is non-binding) may come under an overall 30 mph default limit for thickly settled residential areas.
The commission voted unanimously to recommend the city post the lowest legally valid speed limit for Maple Grove, ostensibly 30, and to pursue additional remedies through speed humps and additional yellow "Slow Children" signs. The recommendation, which is purely advisory, will now go before the City Council at an upcoming meeting.