40 on 30

The speed limit leaving Brattleboro on Route 30 is wrong.

Currently, the posted limit is 40 mph until after the distillery. The road, though, was engineered for a faster speed. Driving 40 mph now feels very slow.

Driving 40 mph along this stretch seems slow for many reasons. The road is wide as it is. The shoulders are wide enough for extra lanes. The curves of the road are wide and gentle. 

The switch to 40 mph was out of concern for safety for the West River athletic fields, but there are rarely pedestrians and only a handful bike riders along that route. Everyone drives to the fields. It’s too far for athletes to walk.

Cops know the speed is wrong – it is why they frequently sit under the I-91 overpass (in the spaces reserved for tourists to park and appreciate the view) with radar guns, handing out tickets with ease. They know people will be going faster than 40 mph, especially as drivers pass Upper Dummerston Road and notice the road open up ahead. It’s almost cheating to catch speeders here. The road encourages speeding.

Those who drive this route know it is hard to go 40 mph. Not only does it feel like the wrong speed for that stretch of road, it is so slow that it causes other problems. It is easy for a driver going that slow to stop looking at the road and start appreciating the view or fumbling about in the car instead, an increase to distracted driving.

Even if one tries to go 40, it is easy to “forget” and slowly creep up in speed.

Going 40 mph also increases road rage. Other vehicles do not appreciate you going the speed limit. They ride up behind you and push you along, making for unnecessarily unsafe conditions. (They then want to race around and pass you once the speed limit rises again.)

What is the solution? There seem to be three options:

1. Keep things as they are. Nonexistant pedestrians will be safe, but others will struggle with speed traps and the feeling that the speed limit is just plain wrong for the road. Law enforcement will write a lot of tickets.

2. Speed things up.  It didn’t used to be this slow. If I were altering the speed limit again, I’d make it 50 mph after Upper Dummerston Road.

3. Slow the road. It’s not enough to put lower speed limit signs on that stretch. It’s not fair. The road needs to be re-engineered for a slower speed. It needs to be narrowed, or islands installed, or more curves added, or SOMETHING. Bike lanes down the middle. More trees close to the road. A rotary! (Just kidding).

Without much development along that stretch, 40 mph just seems wrong.

Comments | 10

  • Rte 30

    It’s under state control and they decided on 40 mph. That sort of decision is normally made with local consultation. I’m guessing the factors that determined a reduction to 40 from the original 50 included increased volume created by the park, increased use at the professional center and the commercial uses next door to it, the sightseers with eyes on the bridge rather than the road, increased numbers of bikers (that can be lost for a moment in the shadows directly under the bridge) and the usual slight normal increase in traffic. Another difficulty with this stretch is that traffic entering and leaving have to do so straight it, at right angles. There’s no shoulder to speak of on the northerly side, where the park is located. The park access is also on a good grade coming up from the fields. Honestly I haven’t tried it but from the look I’d guess distance vision is not substantial. At night or dusk the factors get dicier. The curving roadway approaching from the north also limits vision.

    Remember, too, that most cars come equipped with a .44 for safety purposes. I know they have them in all the women’s models, anyway. Someone riding your tail is most likely signaling for a safety equipment check and as often as not merely showing them this safety device is all the reassurance they need to back off and stop worrying.

    • Ticket?

      Did you get a speeding ticket Chris?

      • I did. Last fall. Perfectly clear day. It was midday

        I did. Last fall.

        Perfectly clear day. It was midday. No pedestrians, no bikes, no traffic. I slowed down and let someone turn on Upper Dummerston as I was leaving town (did the safe thing and stopped behind them rather than pass on the right.) Then I accelerated again to get back up to speed. Just as I noticed I had gone too fast and was around 50 at the big curve, I took my foot off the gas. At the same time, the trooper waved me over.

        With a perfect driving record I got 2 points and had to pay over $100.

        So, I’ve been using the cruise control for the whole 40 mph stretch ever since. And that’s how I noticed that 40 is the wrong speed for the road. It’s really hard to stay right at 40 mph without cruise control. That shouldn’t be.

  • How about 45?

    Lots of people have privately responded to me about this, many with different views of why it was set to 40.

    The limit was lowered for 91 bridge construction. Then, when it was set to go back up, Brattleboro asked for it to remain low – for the businesses and park (which people would walk and bike to… which most don’t.)

    I hear ya about entering and exiting, but when you drive that stretch, especially after Upper Dummerston to where it returns to 50 mph, do you really stay at 40 mph? I can’t do it. I have to use the cruise control to stick to 40 mph. If I don’t, I inevitably creep up to 43, or 45.

    I guess you would then support the third option, of slowing the road by narrowing it or something? (Or are shootouts the only solution?)

    Out of respect for the concerns above, I humbly alter my recommendation with a compromise – how about 45 mph being the correct speed for that stretch? Any objections to 45 mph?

  • I object to 45

    I object to 45. Initially the speed limit was lowered to 40 due to the I-91 bridge construction but one of the main reasons why the Town and the State decided to keep the limit at 40 was due to the horrific accidents that often occur on that stretch of road between Upper Dummerston and the Park from people driving way over the speed limit – not just out-of-staters either. Within that corridor on West River Road (Route 30) heading north, there is a little stretch of neighborhood on the left hand side (where I live); the Town, the State, and the people who live in that neighborhood supported keeping the speed limit at 40. That stretch of road has been shut down hours at a time for accident clean ups, most recently was just 4 months ago. It’s an incredibly frightful sight to see cars and trucks totaled and wondering if anyone survived while crews are hosing down the road and measuring the distance between smashed cars with tape. It has become too commonplace. Trying to turn into our driveways is a nightmare especially when a speeder decides to pass on the left at the exact time I/we are turning. Passing on the right isn’t as bad but it’s not reassuring either. I understand the impulse to want to speed on that stretch of road after Upper Dummerston; I have to catch myself hitting the pedal a little too heavy sometimes too but honestly, what’s the hurry?

    I was on the aesthetic committee for the I-91 bridge project. The plan was to have the section of corridor in question to be the “Gateway to Vermont” – to welcome not only tourists but to support all of the outdoor activities such as walkers, runners, bikers (and there are many), fishing, skating, a place to launch kayaks, and a pull over area near the bridge (crude one there now) for parking so that people could walk to the base of the bridge and enjoy the view.

    There was a follow up committee where a feasibility study was done to put in place a foot/bike path from the bottom of Cedar Street (extension from the Retreat sidewalks) to the Park. As far as I know the plan was approved providing it was to be done in phases. The first phase (as you suggested) was to shift the lines thus narrowing the road. If the Town and the State followed through with the plan, I think people wouldn’t have that impulse to speed. There was to be an improved/safer parking area in front of the meadows, possibly some trees along the corridor, and more. The plans were impressive; I wish I knew why nothing came of them especially since the feasibility study was approved.

  • Proposal of Speeding

    I really can’t take pity on those motorists who want to bust out of the stall after they are momentarily inconvenienced passing through the Retreat pedestrian & cautionary, reduced speed zone in order to catch up and expedite the arrival time to their holiday destinations ahead of schedule by maximizing their petal to the metal while they clean out their city laden and bogged down exhaust systems in the process at our expense in safety . And yes, some Vermonter have these same tendencies (their cloud of exhaust is just from owning an older car) but the cops have an appetite for the out of state plates best I dare to say.

    Maybe if you had witnessed the last head on collision just beyond Upper Dummerston Rd. where speeds were in an excess of over 50 miles per hour in each direction (that’s equates to an impact of over a combined speed of 100 mph they say), where one utility van flipped so hard it deeply gouged out a section of pavement and crumpled guard rail just shy of the River’s edge, and as for the other vehicle it was so totally demolished it looked like a shredded and deflated accordion that fell to earth, completely unrecognizable ,truly a miracle all survived. Yes this shut down the road where speeds were reduced to zero to everyone’s relief or maybe some’s annoyance, but either way people were stunned at the horror long enough to maybe think twice about the speed they are going for a while or that they may just have to pay heed at any given moment.

    It seems outbound drivers become brash and emboldened ,and to say the least discourteous, to those within this, yes, residential area trying to turn off into their driveways as those with less patience attempt to pass within inches of those stopped who looking in their rear view mirrors and counting the seconds can only hope to see some recognition of that fact they are trying to make a turn without a passerbyer slamming into their rear end as they try and gun it to blow out of town onto open road or quickly occupy what has become a bike/runner lane to do so they are oblivious to the existence of and probably couldn’t care at that moment to make the gain. These are the same type of “respectful” drivers (all about me) who use the flower boxes at the end of the driveway to rt. 30 in this area as target practice for their last cigarette butt or fast food meal to jettison before entering town, I should know I clean the piles up. Unfortunately you have to design things in a manner that realistically takes into consideration the worst of those consistent violators and makes them behave so we ourselves aren’t pushing up daisies on the banks of the West River.

  • OK - Let's Slow That Road Better!

    Thank you all for the comments and feedback. Raising the speed limit was just one of my three suggestions.

    It sounds like no one likes the first two options, so that leaves option 3 – that the roadway could be better engineered to force slow driving along that route. I can go for that. My problem is that the road is engineered for much faster driving, and causes drivers to accelerate almost against their will. It is really hard to go the speed limit. (Try it, and try not to go 41. You’ll be staring at your speedometer rather than watching the road. )

    The higher-speed road engineering with lower speed limit sign causes accidents. And yes, I saw that flipped truck a few months ago…. Can we consider that anecdotal proof that the speed limit sign alone DID NOT make things safer?

    Something is wrong on this stretch of road. How do we best slow this section? A divider down the middle? How about much wider bike and pedestrian lanes, and much narrower car lanes? More businesses?

    Simply lowering the speed limit number on a sign from 50 to 40 wasn’t enough. This roadway needs closer examination, and probably some money/work, to become safer.

    Thanks again – I like the feedback. It improves the ideas.

    • Absolutely!

      I agree; the speed limit sign has zero impact on drivers. All the points you raise are valid and were discussed in depth at the committee meetings. If the Town and the State would only put forth what was approved from the feasibility study, people behind the wheel would drive slower and more cautiously – I would bet on it. Part two of the bridge project was the Gateway to Vermont so it seems that the job is incomplete. I’m sure it’s a money thing but, you have encouraged me to go back and look at my notes from these meetings. If I find anything worth sharing, I’ll let you know.

      • I remember writing it all up as it was discussed at the

        I remember writing it all up as it was discussed at the Selectboard. Gartenstein was Chair, and also on Traffic Safety, if I recall correctly.

        At the time I thought it was a good idea. In practice, this stretch needs more work to be safe.

        Our current “Gateway to Vermont” often has a trooper parked where the tourists might pull over. I doubt many pull over to enjoy the view while speed guns are being used.

        If you find anything in the notes, do share. I think this is a relatively small problem overall, but could and should be fixed if possible.

        (One question – in the notes, was the skateboard park still part of the West River plan when the speed limit decision was made? I have half a memory of people worried about all the young skateboarders heading out there… but might be mis-remembering.)

  • Agreed

    Yes, I too believe the inherent layout of this wide stretch has become flawed as use has changed with increased activities utilizing this area for recreation or touring the Retreat Farm or the Park beyond. Thanks for your comments.

    Part of the drive to this residential area on the left used to be old rt. 30 and I guess there was something like a beach club on the banks of the West River back in the day when it was maybe more swimmable (less Poison Ivy, Tics and Knotweed) or at least deeper now filled in with a delta sediment from Hurricane Irene.

    I think attention and interest to possible improvements have retracted because it represents yet another high cost venture or project that the town and /or state will cringe at coming on the heels of completing the incredible bridge project with amazing success, but at a cost, but we need follow up for safety sake and that can’t wait for another casualty to occur.A statistical account of activity (besides car racing) & use would help make the case.

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