By Seth Daniel
It appears 30 is just too fast.
City Councillors, led by Councillor Judith Garcia’s committee, and Police Chief Brian Kyes are looking to push the default speed limit on Chelsea streets down from 30 mph to 25 mph. Though it is a slight difference, the density of the city would make it a meaningful change, both Kyes and Garcia said.
“Chelsea is arguably the most densely populated city in the entire state,” said Kyes. “In order to prioritize and greatly enhance the safety of all of our pedestrians, bicyclists and motor vehicles in traffic in makes perfect sense to reduce the speed limit of all motorists traveling in and through the city to 25 mph. I applaud the City Manager and the City Council for moving in this direction to increase public safety in our community.”
Garcia said a recent meeting of her Committee revealed that there were numerous accidents in Chelsea, including three incidents in one week last month.
Kyes said on Nov. 14, a Chelsea High student was struck by a bus on Everett Avenue. On Nov. 18, two pedestrian accidents occurred.
One was a highly publicized incident where a minivan hit a 72-year-old woman on Broadway and 4th Street and fled the scene. An arrest was made a few days later.
Later that day, an 18-year-old Chelsea High student was hit on Everett Avenue at Chestnut Street. The operator stayed on scene there and was cited for negligent operation
It is not believed that speed was a factor in any of them, but Kyes said density is the issue here.
“The reality is that 30 mph in a thickly settled district is simply too fast in densely populated city like Chelsea,” said the chief. “The definition of ‘thickly settled’ is an area where buildings that are less than 200 feet part for a distance of one-quarter of a mile. Other than Eastern Avenue or Marginal Street there is not a location in the city where buildings are ‘less than’ 200 feet apart.”
Garcia said they learned that there were 77 accidents where pedestrians were involved in 2014. This year, so far, there have been 49.
“It’s definitely a conversation that we think we need to take seriously because it will definitely protect pedestrians and improve the quality of life here,” said Garcia.
Councillor Leo Robinson said he is in favor of the change as well.
“It has to happen; it’s critical,” he said. “It’s just too dangerous on many of our streets at that speed.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino is also in favor of the change.
The change is permitted based on Gov. Charlie Baker’s Municipal Modernization Act, which had one component that allowed municipalities to lower their default speed limits.
Garcia said there will be a Traffic Commission hearing on Dec. 13 to vote on the change.
If it passes, the change will move to the City Council where a Dec. 19 vote is anticipated.