By Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter
SHREWSBURY – Shrewsbury leaders discussed a variety of traffic concerns and ways to respond to them during a Sept. 28 Board of Selectmen meeting.
Selectmen Chair John Samia said the board has recently heard complaints about various traffic issues like speeding and high traffic volume in school zones.
“What we’re hoping for tonight from [Police Chief Kevin Anderson] as well as [Director of Public Works Jeffrey Howland] is an opportunity to discuss traffic issues, options available, what the town can do to address these issues,” Samia said.
DPW Director notes possible reasons for high traffic volume
Anderson said traffic concerns are one of the most common complaints made by Shrewsbury residents.
“I think [to] most of the people, it’s a perception that vehicles are traveling faster than they actually are,” Howland said.
According to Anderson’s presentation, in 2020, the department responded to 747 motor vehicle accidents, 112 hit-and-runs, 451 disabled vehicles and 515 traffic complaints. An additional 67 formal traffic complaints were investigated.
He named several factors driving increased traffic volume in town, including the distance from Shrewsbury to both Boston and Worcester, highly-ranked colleges and biotech firms nearby, new housing and commercial development in the area, as well as the presence of the four major highways that run through town.
Lake Quinsigamond attracts a large recreation population over the summer, he added.
Traffic calming efforts to focus on education, enforcement, engineering
Traffic calming is a three-pronged approach to address traffic in a community made up of education, enforcement and engineering, officials noted.
Education, for example, includes the radar signs. Anderson said the department intends to purchase three more in addition to the ones it has.
Enforcement, likewise, is effective, Anderson said.
“But it requires constant and continual presence in addition to being highly visible,” he continued.
Drivers tend to slow down when they continually see police cruisers in a specific area, Anderson said. They then still tend to slow down even when the cruisers are gone, he continued.
Most communities of a similar size to Shrewsbury have a dedicated traffic unit, Anderson said.
“However, often, the officer cannot be assigned due to call volume or gets taken off the traffic assignment to answer calls for service in his or her sector,” Anderson said.
Anderson said Shrewsbury doesn’t have a traffic division because the department is at minimum staffing.
Chief proposes traffic enforcement unit
Anderson proposed creating a traffic enforcement unit in town to be made of officers from the department’s patrol unit.
Anderson also suggested exploring the establishment of a local traffic advisory committee, which would identify areas of concern.
Howland said that there was a traffic committee made up of a traffic officer, police chief, highway superintendent and the town engineer when he started working with the town just under nine years ago as that town engineer.