State Denies Nelsonville Plea to Cut Speed Limit

Also, village moves ahead on sewer research 

New York State last week turned down a plea from Nelsonville to reduce the 40 mph speed limit on state Route 301 at the eastern edge of the village, citing research revealing that no crashes occurred in that stretch in a six-year period. 

Mayor Chris Winward announced the Department of Transportation’s decision at the Village Board meeting on Monday (March 20). Last summer, village officials asked the state to review the speed limit, after years of concern about traffic-related dangers to pedestrians and bicyclists on Main Street as it snakes through the village.

In a letter addressed to the mayor, the DOT said that a study it conducted found “no identified pattern of crashes” on the relevant stretch and that data showed “the existing road conditions along this segment of Route 301 do not support a lower speed limit.” 

The agency said it based its conclusion “on the necessary criteria used in determining a lower speed limit,” but did not define the criteria. The letter was not signed by anyone at DOT and contained only an email address for an internal unit.

The Current asked DOT to define the criteria it cited; a DOT representative said on Thursday that it included “speed and crash data and roadway geometry.”

The mayor noted at Monday’s meeting that the speed limit remains 55 mph on Route 301 coming west from Route 9. It then becomes 40 mph, even after it crosses the village border. Farther into the village, it drops to 30 mph.

“There’s no reason to go 55 mph” west of Route 9, Winward said. “Home rule doesn’t apply because it’s a state road?” asked Trustee Thomas Campanile. “It’s crazy.”

In November, the Town of Philipstown passed a resolution supporting Nelsonville’s request but also asking DOT to reduce the speed limit from 55 mph to 45 mph on Route 301 between the Route 9 intersection and Jaycox Road.  

Although it declined to reduce the speed limit, DOT did fulfill another Nelsonville request: It repainted the crosswalks on Route 301/Main Street. Next, Winward said, Nelsonville plans to apply for devices with flashing lights and a knob for pedestrian use at crosswalks, as well as roadside radar signs informing drivers of their speed. It also wants continued, active patrolling by the Putnam County Sheriff’s deputies, who recently began writing more tickets.

Sewer study

The board voted 5-0 to spend $26,000 in American Rescue Plan federal grant money to hire consultants to study the feasibility of installing sewers in the central portion of the village, where historic houses, shops and other buildings stand closely together. Newer homes in the outlying mountain-residential zoning district usually sit on larger lots.

Unlike Cold Spring, Nelsonville has no sewer system, although it gets drinking water from Cold Spring’s water system. 

According to the mayor, residents from Nelsonville families extending back generations, as well as newcomers, have increasingly asked about sewers. “It’s an issue that cuts across everybody,” she said.

Winward said that typically properties, at best, have a septic system that doesn’t function well or, at worst, a cesspool — a pit dug in prior centuries to collect sewage and wastewater piped from homes and other buildings. “People are actually falling into these old cesspools in our backyards all the time,” she said.

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