Residents complain of speeding vehicles

BETHANY - Ever growing problems with speeding cars on Downs Road were brought to the board of selectmen's attention last week by two residents of the rural road. They received assurances the town would take action

Motorists come "zooming down" the sloping, nearly 3-mile road, Joan Jackson said, endangering walkers, cyclists, pets, wildlife, horsemen and residents, who even have trouble getting out of their own driveways at certain hours.

"People have to watch their p's and q's," Jackson said. Those driving uphill also have to keep a sharp eye on approaching vehicles because some of them ignore the center line and only swerve over if they see another car coming, she told the board.

Cyclists, walkers, and others who enjoy the rural road, are especially in danger from those going at highs speeds, despite posted speed limits of 25 and 30.

Such motorists also don't allow time to avoid deer and wild turkey, which are common in the area because much of the land is owned by the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority.

Downs Road connects with four other roads: Route 69 in Woodbridge, Hatfield Hill, Hoadley, and Carmel roads in Bethany.

While traffic has increased over the years, it isn't the number of vehicles that concerns residents. "It's the speed," Jackson emphasized. Trucks are less of a problem in general than passenger cars, especially SUVs, she said adding,, "My impression is that red cars driven by little girls are (especially) lethal."

Some of the worst speeders come off Route 69, going north. They are used to higher speeds and Downs Road is a gentle intersection.

New housing in nearby Hamden aggravates the situation, resident William Guth said, but agreed speeding vehicles are the main concern.

"It's not a new problem," Jackson said, "and it's getting worse."

Years ago a motorist lost control of his car as he drove downhill, ripped through a fence and plunged into Lake Watrous, where he drowned before help could reach him.

A former resident became so incensed at the speeding vehicles in 1988 that he erected a temporary road sign saying, "SLOW /DOWN/DAMMIT."

The two residents explored several solutions with the board members:

speed bumps, which probably are not practical on a through road.

more signs with "Stop," "Deer Crossing" and "Hidden Driveway," which would be helpful.

—More consistent speed limit signs.

—Monitoring by resident troopers and a speed recording trailer.

First Selectman Craig Stahl asked the residents to "pin down" the commuting hours that are the worst problem and said he would discuss the matter with the town troopers. He also will notify the Highway Department to coordinate the speed limit signs.

Other Downs Road residents added their own observations in telephone calls with the Bulletin. Many motorists go right through the stop sign at the Downs Road intersection with Carmel Road, despite a completely blind corner, said Sarah Lightfoot, who lives there.

"I like to walk my dog and ride my bike, but it's really dangerous," she said.

Resident Patricia Rubin saw her cat killed "right in front of me," as two cars raced each other downhill, side by side, at the sharp curve near her home. "They were on either side of the center line," she said.

She also has noticed a motorcyclist, who regularly passes by at speeds she estimated at 50 to 60 miles an hour. A tree service vehicle also passes by twice daily at a high speed.