SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — A second fatal accident on Middlebridge Road in South Kingstown within the past six months has prompted residents there to call for more traffic-calming measures from the town.
Residents Caroline and James Vogel told the Town Council at Tuesday’s meeting that they fully support ongoing efforts to install traffic speed limit signs along the road. But more measures are needed, the couple said.
“We had a tragedy this past week with an accident, and there was a pedestrian accident in April too,” Jim Vogel said.
On Sept. 21, police, fire and EMS responded to the area of 989 Middlebridge Road for a report of a one-car crash. The driver of the vehicle, who was the only occupant, was taken by helicopter to Rhode Island Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Police later identified the victim as Joshua Martin, 18, of Narragansett. Police are investigating the crash.
In late March, 54-year-old Alan Albergaria of South Kingstown was hit by a car near the 600 block of Middlebridge Road and died. The driver was charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The Vogels regularly walk their dog and ride bicycles on the road. They said the 32 signs and paintings on Middlebridge road between Middlebridge and Bridgetown Road, including one crosswalk and a new stop sign at Torry Road, aren’t sufficient to keep motorists at the 25 mile per hour speed limit.
“It’s clear the road just lends itself to people traveling fast, and we need to do something to stop that,” Jim Vogel said.
They suggested additional measures, such as installing speed tables and raised crosswalks, that might help.
Speed tables have been installed in cold weather climates in Stockholm, Sweden; Madison, Wisconsin; and recently along Flagg Road at the University of Rhode Island’s Kingston campus, they noted.
Town Manager Rob Zarnetske said he’s meeting this week with the town engineer, and that speed tables would be an option for discussion.
“There’s a bunch of reasons folks don’t like speed tables, such as throwing off motorcyclists and bicyclists if they hit them too hard,” he said. “They are gentler than speed bumps. But they do still have some problems. The other issue is that speed tables are problematic for vehicles that are low clearance, where the floorboards are close to the road. You would effectively prevent some vehicles from driving on a road with speed tables.”
But Zarnetske said the town engineer is open to all options at this point.
“If it seems viable, we can certainly pursue it,” he said.
Councilor Joe Viele said the speed tables deserve a closer look, after seeing them on Flagg Road.
“They’re a pretty gradual climb, then a flattening off, then a gradual descent,” he said. “I went over each one, it’s a big improvement, I think.”
Abel Collins, the council president, suggested closing the road off as a through-way to Narragansett.
“Instead of having Middlebridge being continuous, you could split it into Middlebridge north, just serve the neighborhood to the north of where Torry Hill Road comes in, and then have Torry Hill turn into a Middlebridge South, two separate pieces,” he said.
It would alleviate the cut-through issue, but also pose new problems, such as cutting off residents to the north, he said.
“I think we’re going to need to think creatively, but that’s just a potential solution,” Collins said.
Resident Karen Humes said she hopes residents can have input on solutions.
“We’re telling you the speeds down here are awful,” she said. “We know police have done the studies. People come down the road to avoid the traffic lights on Route 1.”
Humes said her husband, a town employee, had to jump into bushes along Middlebridge Road after almost getting hit by a car this summer.
“He was in the bushes jumping out of the road,” she said. “That’s the speed people go down this road all the time.”
Zarnetske said the speed problem exists in several areas of town. He’s been forced off of Old North Road by cars twice while riding a bicycle, he said.
“The solutions we propose have to be appropriate to the local conditions on the road, but they also have to be something we are prepared to deploy elsewhere,” he said. “We’re not at all callous to the dangers our neighbors face.”