Hadley looks to curb neighborhood commuter traffic

  • A marquee sign sends a message to drivers on Route 9 in Hadley, Monday, April 27, 2020. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 20, 2020

HADLEY — Commuters between Northampton and Amherst, many heading to and from the University of Massachusetts campus, have long traveled residential streets in Hadley neighborhoods to expedite their ride.

Using West Street and North Lane on the morning drive, and North Lane, West Street, Cemetery and Crosspath roads in the afternoon, the shortcut is popular to avoid the heavy volume of traffic on Route 9.

But town officials and the police department, following a recent traffic study showing that most motorists are not obeying the 30 mph speed limit, are considering ways to reduce both the speed and number of vehicles, either by making North Lane a one-way street or installing speed tables on it.

Select Board Chairman David J. Fill, II said Monday that vehicles going faster than the 30 mph speed limit is becoming a significant issue regarding the shortcut.

“With West Street being repaved later this month, it’s time to take steps to address the problem,” Fill said.

The Select Board will have the topic on its Oct. 21 meeting agenda, soliciting input about what would help to reduce cut-through traffic and keep vehicles on the state roads, both Route 9/Russell Street and Route 47/River Drive and Middle Street, as well as reduce their speeds. Police Chief Michael Mason will take part in the discussion.

The traffic study, by All Traffic Solutions, of Herndon, Virginia, showed that during an average hour, from Aug. 17 to Sept. 15, 22 vehicles exceeded the 30 mph speed limit by up to 10 mph, with an average of two of these vehicles going more than 10 mph over the limit. The peak time for offenses came between 3 and 4 p.m., when 83 vehicles were found to be speeding.

None of the more than 500 vehicles stayed at or below the speed limit on a typical day.

That study came at a time when traffic was lighter.

The traffic volume had increased to 1,509 vehicles on Sept. 21 and 1,421 on Sept. 22 during a second phase of the study.

Though some residents have advocated for the town to let its streets deteriorate to discourage the traffic passing through, Fill said that is not going to happen.

“Not paving our maintaining our streets as some have suggested is not a solution, so it’s time to investigate other options,” Fill said.

In addition to the homeowners on the street, the other concern from the traffic is the growing popularity of the dike along the Connecticut River and the Alexandra Dawson Conservation Area, where numerous people park their vehicles and then walk.

One viable option, Fill said, might be to make North Lane one-way for a six-month trial period to see what impact this has, as well as installing speed tables, which are longer than speed bumps or speed cushions and safer for plows during the winter. Similar efforts have been floated in the past, but not been implemented.

In 1999, the Select Board and then-Police Chief Dennis Hukowicz considered a plan to keep travelers from using the shortcut following requests from West Street residents concerned about both the volume and speed of traffic.

Under one proposal at the time, Crosspath Road would have been made one-way northbound and North Lane would have become one-way eastbound. Other ideas included making Cemetery Road, which connects to Crosspath, a dead-end street, with drivers only able to use it to get to the Honeypot section, or turning it into a one-way street. Another concept floated was for North Lane to become a dead-end street, which was advocated by residents in the area.

Since that time, the only significant change to the shortcut was made at the entrance to Crosspath from Route 9. There the state, as part of a Route 9 project that included Coolidge Bridge, mandated that vehicles heading east over the bridge not be allowed to make a left-hand turn onto the street.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.