This article first appeared in the July 17, 2014 edition of the Vermont Standard.
By Katy Savage
After a number of fatalities this past year, the speed limits through the Route 4 corridor extending from Hartford to Route 100A in Bridgewater will be changing.
All of the 50-mile-per-hour zones will drop to 45 miles per hour and the number of speed changes in total will drop from 19 to 16. Speeds in Woodstock are going to be lowered.
“It’s a fairly comprehensive change,” said Bruce Nyquist, a traffic and safety engineer from the Vermont Agency of Transportation.
VTrans has conducted numerous speed and traffic studies of the road. In the past year, the state has re-paved the road, put rumble strips in the middle of a portion of it and added lines along the sides of the roads.
“The road has a similar character as you drive through it — windy, not a lot of shoulder — we just wanted to make it more consistent for the (driver),” Nyquist said.
VTrans spoke with local police chiefs, sheriffs and the Department of Motor Vehicles, who enforce the area, before proposing the changes to the state traffic committee, which is responsible for different changes to regulations in the law — specifically speed limit changes.
None of the crashes were speedrelated last year, according to police reports. In the majority of them, people crossed over the centerline. Still, Woodstock Police Chief Robbie Blish thought lowering the speed limit would be safer.
“We all agreed that lowering the speed limit would give the drivers a little bit more reaction time if they did cross over the center line,” Blish said.
All of the Woodstock speed limits on Route 4 will be reduced by 5-10 miles per hour while in Bridgewater, the 40-mile-per-hour zone will increase to 45 miles per hour. The 35 mph zone will also be extended west of Bridgewater. Speed in Hartford is also increasing from 40 mph to 45 while the 50 mph zone is dropping to 45.
The changes haven’t been made yet, but they’ve already gotten mixed reviews.
“Nobody wants to see the speed limits go up,” said Windsor County Sheriff Michael Chamberlain, whose department patrols towns including Bridgewater, Plymouth, Pomfret, Barnard and Reading.
Woodstock Select Board member Preston Bristow, however said the Route 4 speed already seemed slow at the board meeting Tuesday night.
The changes will go into effect once the new signs have been made — Nyquist expects within a month or two.
“It’s easy to miss signs as you’re driving along,” Nyquist said, adding: “(With) this we were saying, OK, what do we want drivers to be able to expect when they’re driving through this whole corridor?”