Town crews were out early this week painting the speed bumps on Queen Street school-bus yellow, to raise the visibility of the raised pavement at five spots along the length of the popular thru-road between the town’s commercial center and Wasserman Way. The street is distinctly less popular these days. The “traffic calming devices” in the road are not having a calming effect on the frustration levels of drivers, who must alternately accelerate and brake along the short unimpeded interstices as they prepare to clear one bump after another. As lovely as the scenery is on this half-mile Queen Street steeplechase, many motorists without a lot of time on their hands are taking their vehicles and their chances on the traffic- and hazard-intense South Main Street from the center of town to points south and east.
A year and a half ago, in this space we encouraged the Police Commission and municipal planners to work with their regional and state counterparts to come up with a comprehensive strategy to address traffic problems in the center of town as outlined in the 2006 “Queen Street Area Traffic Improvement Plan.” While the plan did suggest the installation of a “speed reducing table” (bump) at the entrance of the middle school and countenanced the consideration of other similar devices on southern Queen Street, the main thrust of the study’s conclusions and recommendations was not the creation of obstacles and impediments. It recommended improvements to the flow of traffic and pedestrians along roads and through critical intersections at the flagpole, Church Hill/Queen, Glover/South Main, and Queen/Wasserman. Better traffic signalization, parking configurations, and new sidewalks were prescribed to move traffic quickly and safely through the area.
As with all grand plans, the lack of money keeps pushing the solutions to our traffic problems into the future. A plan for sidewalks on southern Queen Street, for example, was delayed this year when Newtown missed out on the first round of funding for the federal Safe Routes to School program. And the most promising — and most costly — remedy for traffic congestion in the center of town, a connector road from the end of Commerce Road to Wasserman Way, faces a tortuous and expensive path of environmental and engineering studies even before construction is contemplated.
With traffic congestion getting worse year by year in Newtown’s central commercial district, there is a great desire among struggling Newtown motorists to speed the progress on traffic improvements. The construction of obstacles on Queen Street designed to slow things down and divert traffic to other overtaxed routes and intersections seems like an inauspicious start. We are eager to see Newtown’s traffic improvement efforts move beyond Queen Street.