SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 18, 2012

Danvers residents raise traffic concerns

BY ETHAN FORMAN
STAFF WRITER

---- — DANVERS — On the afternoon of Oct. 3, two vehicles were traveling west on North Street toward Route 1 when the vehicle in front seemed to want to take a left onto Summer Street, police Chief Neil Ouellette said.

The second vehicle moved right to pass, but at the last moment, the lead car took a right onto Rogers Road. The SUV in back wound up running off North Street and smack dab into the home of Michael and Amy Kasprzak at 105 North St.

The Toyota 4Runner somehow missed a fire hydrant on the corner, drove over some ground bushes, grazed a large burning bush shrub in the front yard, took out a section of fence to the backyard, then hit the side of the home, where the bedroom of the Kasprzaks’ 10-year-old daughter is located. The crash sent a section of drywall and some kids’ furniture flying inside, though the SUV did not penetrate the building. Tire tracks gouged into the front lawn are still visible.

“If she had been in her room, it very well would have startled her,” Amy said of her daughter.

Michael said the vehicle was going faster than 40 mph in a section of the street marked 30 mph. North Street sits not far from the Putnamville Reservoir, and it serves as a major cut-through to and from Route 1 and Interstate 95 to the west, and Route 35 and downtown to the east. Amy, whose family includes a 6-year-old son in addition to her daughter, said it was lucky their kids were not playing in the yard at the time.

Michael says in the past decade, five vehicles have crashed onto properties on North Street, winding up in yards or striking fences in addition to hitting his house. Those properties encompass every corner of the intersection of Rogers Road, Summer and North streets.

This accident was not the first time this year that a vehicle went off the road near the Kasprzaks’ home. Ouellette noted that on Memorial Day weekend, a vehicle hit a utility pole on North Street, the pole on the corner just outside their home.

“If the pole isn’t there, it’s a good chance that it would be into my house again,” Michael said.

Michael said he is frustrated with the pace by the town to calm traffic on the busy street. The Kasprzaks are waiting for the town to put a “tower sign” in the middle of a crosswalk on North Street at Rogers Road to help children cross the street. He and his wife said a long-term solution would be the installation of a blinking yellow and red light similar to one on Summer Street “that will alert people on the street they need to drive slowly. It’s a residential area with many pedestrians.”

Yesterday, there was at least one sign of progress, a temporary electronic lighted signboard on North Street urging motorists to “Slow Down” to 30 mph. Crosswalks on North Street in the vicinity of the intersection are marked by large, neon-yellow signs. Those signs have been there for a while, said Danvers Department of Public Works Operations Director Robert Lee, who is also co-chairman of the Danvers Traffic Advisory Committee.

One more sign will be added east of the crosswalk that says: “Crosswalk up ahead,” Lee said. A tree in front of an existing crosswalk sign was trimmed to make it more visible, Lee added.

Michael said the town did install for a time a data collection box, and he noted a stepped up police presence. However, the police presence comes and goes. In essence, he said, “nothing has changed.”

The Danvers Traffic Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations on traffic issues to selectmen, met Dec. 6 with Amy Kasprzak, and its recommendations include a blinking yellow and red light, new crosswalk signs, repainting the crosswalks each year, more speed limit signs, a new crosswalk at Paulette Drive and the new tower sign for the crosswalk.

Michael said the family is speaking up to make sure residents on the street feel safe and secure, “but it feels, at times, we are spinning our wheels.”

Town officials say they are doing what they can to accommodate the family’s concerns.

Marquis said at a meeting the data collection box, signboard, and stepped up patrols were in response to the Kasprzaks’ concerns.

“Mr. Kasprzak made the statement speed was a factor in the accident so we went up there and looked,” said Ouellette in an interview. Police stationed the signboard trailer on the street due to the residents’ concerns.

Ouellette said he was doubtful the speed limit could be lowered, as most vehicles on the road appear to be traveling faster than the limit.

“The best we can do is aggressively enforce the speed limit,” Ouellette said.

The DPW’s Lee said the committee is still gathering data about what to do about North Street.

“The end result of the meeting was additional traffic control signs would be installed,” Lee said. The town would also explore the installation of an overhead flashing light and another crosswalk in the area.

“It doesn’t take a lot of study when cars are going into people’s homes and backyards,” Michael Kasprzak said.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.