2013-09-19 / Letters to the Editor

Council should fight for lower speed limit

On March 13, the state Traffic Commission, with member Jamestown Police Chief Ed Mello’s concurrence, changed the speed limit on the crossisland expressway from 40 mph to 50 mph to save about 25 seconds of driving time in crossing Conanicut Island.

I am not delighted, I am outraged. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t recall reading about an upcoming vote, or anyone asking, by mail, telephone or personal solicitation, for opinion or input from Jamestown citizens. Nor do I recall seeing or reading anything about a speed-change proposal in any of the local newspapers, including the Jamestown

Press. I would have objected vehemently.

In the late 1980s, Jamestown citizens battled for, and won, the 40 mph speed limit on the cross-island expressway for safety and noise pollution reasons. I was one of many who spoke out at Town Council meetings about the “slippery slope” of a major highway across Conanicut Island. The Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge is a major producer of noise pollution. It’s true we can’t do much to reduce vehicle-exhaust noise pollution. The asphalt parkway road surface produces some noise, but we have to live with that.

It’s the horrendous howling of tires in contact with the concrete bridge roadbed that is the culprit and that we can fix. The concrete roadbed surface is grooved crosswise to the span. The howling begins when tires contact it and stops upon leaving the bridge. The howling noise reaches its peak level at the top of the bridge, bombarding the Jamestown Shores area in particular. In contrast, the roadbed of the Pell Bridge is grooved parallel to the length of the span so tires produce much less noise. Check it out for yourself the next time you cross the bridges. The difference in tire noise production between the two bridges is dramatic.

The noise pollution from the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge steals the pleasure of sitting on one’s deck, penetrates into home interiors especially when windows are open to fresh air, and likely reduces home values. Some of my neighbors have installed new insulated windows and doors, at significant expense, in an attempt to reduce the noise invading their homes. I never thought visitors to my supposedly quiet Jamestown neighborhood would say it sounds like we live next to the New Jersey Turnpike.

I urge our Town Council, as well as Representative Deb Ruggiero, to take steps to reverse the speedlimit change immediately, and to work with the appropriate state and federal agencies to resurface the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge roadbed. Perhaps this could be done in conjunction with resurfacing of the Pell Bridge roadbed. This will abate the tire noise pollution and restore, as much as possible, the quiet atmosphere of our neighborhoods.

As things stand today, we Jamestown citizens are enduring “highway robbery.” I think that’s a crime.

Jim FitzHarris
Spar Street

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