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State needs to take second look at highway safety in Salisbury

Sometimes a problem seems so obviously in need of a solution that one just cannot imagine getting pushback when trying to find and implement the correct approach to fixing it. One such problem is the difficult one of pedestrian and vehicular traffic safety in downtown Salisbury. 

As noted in a letter to the editor in last week’s Lakeville Journal by two town residents affected by the danger in the town center and in an article in this week’s paper by Cynthia Hochswender, there have been multiple accidents there in the past five years. Some included serious injury and death to people trying to cross the road in the middle of town, and both letter writers, Tom Shachtman of Salisbury and John Pogue of Lakeville, have been directly impacted. Shachtman was badly injured himself when hit there, and Pogue lost his wife of 57 years, Barbara, after she was struck in 2017. 

The state of Connecticut Department of Transportation defines the regulations around road and crossing safety there, as Route 44, going through the center of Salisbury, is a state highway.  It would seem the state would want to take every measure possible to improve the situation, wouldn’t it? Yet Salisbury First Selectman Curtis Rand said in the interview with Hochswender, and before, that he had tried to have the Connecticut DOT install the same sort of pedestrian-activated blinking lights in Salisbury as went into Lakeville during a center of town upgrade there (It was long in the making). The state refused him, indicating that such beacons are no longer allowed in state projects.

Rand also said the town had tried to have the speed limit reduced coming into Salisbury. It’s a densely populated stretch of road, and if drivers are unfamiliar with it, they could be taken off guard by the activity, both with cars pulling out of side roads and pedestrian traffic. Even with signage and bumpouts into the road, drivers and walkers can both contribute to the atmosphere of a dangerous shared space. 

A reduced speed limit would give drivers and walkers a sense of caution that is not given as much emphasis as it should have now. Because really, no driver would enter that area of Salisbury thinking that hitting someone there would not be a big deal. Every driver wants to avoid that kind of tragedy at their hands. Sometimes they just need multiple tools to help them remain alert and careful as they enter a downtown area. 

The town and the state should give them as many of those tools as are available. Please keep an eye out for the petitions being circulated by Tom Shachtman and John Pogue, and support any initiatives that will address this issue in a real way.