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Waterville police, Alfond Youth Center team up to slow traffic

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WATERVILLE — North Street is busy all year round, but particularly in warmer weather when children flock to the Alfond Youth Center, the outdoor municipal pool, soccer fields, the playground and the North Street Dairy Cone.

With the influx of people of all ages attending games and other events comes the worry that vehicles flying down the street and through parking lots could strike a child or adult.

To address the issue, Waterville police Chief Joseph Massey and the Alfond Youth Center’s president and chief executive officer, Ken Walsh, have teamed up to promote awareness that they hope will help prevent a tragedy from occurring.

The Police Department has placed a radar sign on North Street near the Alfond Center not only to track the number of vehicles passing through, document speeds at which they travel and record peak traffic times, but also to warn motorists to slow down. The speed limit on the street is 25 mph, but Walsh said it is not unusual to see vehicles going 50.

“I cringe every time I drive down North Street and park and see a car fly by at a speed that is not appropriate,” he said. “It just takes one unfortunate accident and then we’re all sorry for not making the change of slowing down (when) we should have.”

On a busy day, thousands of children and adults attend events on the street and vehicles are parked there, he said. Vehicles even speed through the youth center parking lot when children and adults are getting in and out of cars, according to Walsh.

Massey and his officers are stepping up enforcement efforts, not only North Street but also on other streets that typically draw the most speeding complaints. The radar sign will be rotated to those streets throughout the summer and police also plan to place cut-out figures of children along the streets to remind people that children are around. Massey said placing those cut-outs on streets in the past has been effective in slowing traffic.

The department also is using three grants from the Bureau of Highway Safety to enforce rules — a grant for enforcing a prohibition on operating under the influence, for $7,600, as well as grants for dealing with distracted driving and speeding, each of which is for $3,000, Massey said.

North Street, like Cool Street and First Rangeway, are typical streets to target for speeding enforcement, he said.

“Some streets are simply conducive to speed because of their width, little or no parking, they are straight and have good visibility,” he said.

The Police Department’s summer bicycle patrol has started in the city, with bicycle officers approaching drivers to ensure they are driving safely and not texting, according to Massey. He said an officer recently saw a driver using a tablet while driving.

While police want to be able to spend time in high-traffic areas, sometimes staffing levels make it difficult to balance that with answering calls for service, according to Massey.

He said the department could use another radar sign, which costs about $2,000. Having good data from such signs that can be analyzed helps when it comes to applying for grants, he said.

 

Courtesy: Amy Calder

 
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