Seven months after , residents of Old Mill Road and Cobbs Mill Road were likely happy to hear the Weston Board of Selectmen unanimously approved an appropriation of $22,650 to be used to remove 32 trees along the road in order to improve sight-lines and thus improve safety.
Though admitting the removal of trees might result in drivers increasing their speeds down Old Mill Road, Town Engineer John Conte told the selectmen Thursday night that the presence of the trees would likely cause more accidents than their absence.
"Safety issues resulting from the removal of those trees would be helpful," he said.
Conte told the selectmen he asked three companies to bid on the tree removal project, and that Knapp Tree of Wilton came back with the lowest bid—$17,850 for the removal of 32 trees.
The project would entail closing Old Mill Road from 9 to 3 p.m. for five days, Conte said. The additional appropriation of $4,800 would cover the salaries of the two police officers who would be stationed on each end of the road in order to make sure the only cars permitted on the road while the work was underway were residents of it.
Some of the trees are more than 20 inches in diamater, Conte said, "that's why we can't have traffic going down there—it's too dangerous."
Sergeant Pat Daubert reported to the selectmen the results of a recent week-long traffic study. He said 900 cars travel southbound on the road each day Monday through Friday, while about 500 travel southbound on each day of the weekend. The peak time during the week, Daubert said, was between 7 and 9 a.m., when about 141 travel southbound per hour.
During the study, Daubert said the highest clocked speed was 56 mph and that 71 percent of vehicles were clocked between 26 and 35 mph.
"[That's] consistent to the speeds that the officers observed when they were out there doing traffic enforcement," he said. "Thirty-five is flying on that road. There’s no question there’s a speed problem over there. [Thirty-five is] the average [speed] around town, but that’s obviously not an average road."
Police Chief John Troxell said the removal of the trees would also create more space for police officer to conduct speed enforcement.
Selectman David Muller said he thought the removal of the trees was a wise move for safety reasons. He said it was crucial, however, that solving one problem didn't create another problem and that the rate of speed should be studied again once the trees are removed.
"People are already speeding when it isn’t safe, when it is safe, my concern is that they're going to be going even faster," he said.
First Selectman Gayle Weinstein said that Old Mill Road isn't the only road in town facing these kinds of problems.
An Old Mill Road resident said it was unfair to compare Old Mill Road to other roads because school buses—and even minivans—can't pass each other on the road.
"I'm very concerned that this measure is only one step in solving a two-step problem," she said, adding she believes speed bumps would help slow down drivers.
Conte said a study's already been done and that the road doesn't meet criteria for installing speed bumps.
Troxell said once work done to the lights and intersections of Weston Road and Norfield Road and Weston Road and School Road are completed, he anticipates less people will cut through Old Mill Road.
"I really believe the traffic volume situation of your road is going to be dissipated noticeably once traffic is able to drive smoothly through the center of town, especially in the morning," he said.
Troxell said there wasn't yet a specific date for the tree work to begin.
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