Fairfield Beach residents rev up drive for tougher traffic controls
Fed up with steps taken by town and police officials to address traffic problems near the beach, the Fairfield Beach Residents Association (FBRA) hired a local firm to conduct a study. The recommendations from Frederick P. Clark Associates include adding stop signs, new sidewalks, a possible roundabout on Fairfield Beach Road and a raised median on Reef Road.
Now the FBRA will take its findings to the Police Commission at its Oct. 15 meeting.
FBRA President Paige Herman said at the organization's annual meeting Wednesday night at the Fairfield Public Libary that traffic is the top concern noted on a survey of the neighborhood group's members.
"We have a very distinct and unique environment at the beach," said Andrew Schulz, the FBRA board member who led the project. "We want to try to officially document [the problems.] We will take a different approach this time, which is why we had the professionals come in."
Michael Galante of Fairfield, the Frederick P. Clark Associates executive vice president oversaw the study, which evaluated traffic issues in the neighborhood and presented "traffic-calming" solutions. He said the study was "more than a traffic survey," because it included a look at the number of pedestrians along with the rate of speed of vehicles, volume of traffic and accident reports. The FBRA spent $9,000 for the report.
Galante presented the results of the study and his recommendations to the FBRA on Wednesday and will continue to work with the group as it takes its fight to the Police Commission.
"This is the beginning of a process. The recommendations are not a one-shot deal," Galante said. A previous project Galante referenced was a traffic study his firm completed across from Fairfield Ludlowe High School. That was six years ago. Construction of new sidewalks in line with that study's recommendations began just last month. "You have to be patient, it doesn't happen over night, it comes down to funding," he said.
Galante's firm conducted its study at Fairfield beach from April 14-27. "Hoses" were placed across the road to count cars at eight spots around Fairfield Beach, Reef, Rowland, Penfield and Beach roads. The study showed, for example that Reef Road near One Rod Highway had around 3,500 vehicles per day during the week, 4,000 on Saturday and 2,900 on Sunday. Near 900 Fairfield Beach Road, there were around 2,600 vehicles weekdays, 3,000 on Saturdays and 2,150 on Sundays. Up at the west end of Fairfield Beach Road, there were 800 vehicles on weekdays, 900 on Saturdays and 800 on Sundays.
The FBRA and the firm also conducted a pedestrian study on May 1 by stationing people to count walkers, bikers, those pushing strollers, etc., on local streets, and dividing the results by category and in total. On a weekday morning there were on average 26 pedestrians, with 20 in the afternoon, 100 on Saturday afternoon and 438 on Sunday on Fairfield Beach Road. Near the Seagrape Bar, the pedestrian traffic varied throughout Saturday from 32 pedestrians to 260 per hour.
Another important part of the study was vehicles' speed. The study found that the "85th percentile," or "comfortable speed," was between 33 and 37 miles per hour on average. Some areas had faster speeds than others, but overall it was generally higher than the posted 25 miles per hour in most of the beach area. For example, while speeds were around 25 mph near 900 Fairfield Beach Road, they were as high as 31 mph near Beach Road at the east end of Fairfield Beach Road during the survey and 38 mph on Reef Road.
Galante also studied accident reports from the town and found those to be low, with no apparent pattern. But he said that does not mean the town should do nothing, because it should strive to be "ahead of the curve."
He said the higher vehicle speeds and significant pedestrian activity, especially on good weather days and when students are renting beach houses, combined with a lack of sidewalks, require that changes be made.
Some residents at the meeting questioned why the study had not included more data regarding the west end of Fairfield Beach Road, where narrow sections leave few options for traffic-calming efforts. Others called for speed bumps, which Galante said would not work along Fairfield Beach Road and would likely be denied by the town.
Other residents asked for changes that Galante's study had no impact on, such as reducing the use of cell phones in the beach area and enforcing speed limits.
Police Chief Gary MacNamara, who attended the meeting, said his department will be looking into the association's traffic concerns.
The FBRA has fought for tougher traffic controls in the past, and some changes have taken place as a result. The town recently installed a sidewalk on Fairfield Beach Road from Rowland Road to Burr Court using federal funding. Two years ago, terra cotta-colored, imitation traffic islands were put in place on Fairfield Beach Road, flush with the surface of the street, in a bid to slow down traffic.