Speeding and Traffic

Echo Hill North was designed as a conservation and walking family neighborhood. Community members of all ages seek to safely enjoy a walk or bike ride to school, to the local pond, or to friends’ houses. While the loops and cul-de-sacs of Echo Hill North keep traffic and speeding to a minimum throughout most of the neighborhood, we are often met with speeding cars on Heatherstone Road. Many of these cars are cutting between Pelham Rd and Route 9, or rushing to make classes at the Hampshire Athletic Club on Gatehouse Rd.

It is time to take action!  Take the survey, make a ruckus (see info below)…

The Case for Change: Why Now?

In the last five years, the neighborhood has exploded with families and young children. Currently, the neighborhood is home to around 40 children 12 years old and under, and an additional 15 teenagers in middle and high school.  With extensive foot and bike traffic, and several young children living immediately on Heatherstone Road, safety has become a primary concern.

Heatherstone has neither sidewalks nor a bike lane to help our bikers and walkers safely navigate their way.

What has been done to date?  Discovery and initial steps

  • In 2014, the board conducted a survey of EHN residents; a petition garnered over 100 signatures asking for change.
  • In 2014/2015, the petition was shared with the Amherst Police Department, Aaron Hayden of the Select Board, Town Senior Planners Jonathan Tucker and Christine Brestrup, and DPW Superintendent Guilford Mooring. We were told to wait until the transportation and pedestrian task force completed their work.
  • As a result of our meetings, the 2015 Amherst Transportation Plan includes our neighborhood (Heatherstone Road) in the first section of the “Needs Assessment” as an area where pedestrian safety is an issue of concern (page 3-29).
  • For several weeks in 2014, 2015, and 2016, the police dedicated patrols to help reduce speed on Heatherstone. Sergeant Jesus Arocho remains our main point of contact.
  • In 2016, the EHN Board President contacted the PVTA to ensure that bus drivers drove at 20 mph. The main contact is very willing to work with us.

Nevertheless, speeding remains an issue on Heatherstone Road.

What are our Options? Limits and a Proposed Pilot

As part of our discovery process we talked through many options with Town Planners and DPW members.

Sidewalks: Ideally, the neighborhood should have been built with sidewalks, but unfortunately it was not. In order for the road to remain wide enough for two lanes of traffic, the road would have to be widened, involving permission from every property owner where sidewalk is to be installed. In addition, since the east side of Heatherstone slopes down, serious work would need to be done to build up the road bank. This option would be extremely expensive and very difficult to execute.

Speed bumps: Speed bumps are generally only installed when a particular road is being completely repaved. They are prohibitively expensive, at around $10,000 per bump. The noise of trucks and buses going over the bumps would be a nuisance for anyone whose house is next to one; neighbors also expressed concern that speed bumps would damage their cars.

Road engineering: As we’ve all seen, traffic does slow along the median strip between Echo Hill Road and Alpine Drive. However, pedestrians are forced to walk on lawns and this leaves no options for those on bikes or with strollers.  Similar to sidewalks, road engineering is costly and would require road widening.

Reduce the speed limit: Currently, there are two 30mph posted speed limit signs on Heatherstone. It is a cumbersome process to change speed limits on existing signs–it requires traffic surveys and a state-level change process. HOWEVER…

We propose introducing a new 20 mph speed limit zone between Pebble Ridge and Aubinwood.  New speed zones have been introduced on South Pleasant Street as part of their traffic calming efforts. This is only a partial solution, however, as it needs constant police presence to enforce.

Stop signs: Relatively cheap to purchase and install, this seems an optimal solution for slowing down through-traffic (instead of Speed Bumps).

We propose a one year pilot that explores the possible traffic calming benefits of introducing three-way stop signs at several key intersections along Heatherstone Road.

At the end of the year, we will gather feedback regarding neighbors’ pedestrian, safety, and driving concerns and benefits to decide whether to continue the Stop Sign Pilot another year.

  • Travel time along Heatherstone Rd would only increase slightly.
  • There is little risk of people rolling through the stop signs–these are at intersections where the feed-in road would stop and check for traffic anyway.
  • Based on neighbor feedback, we also propose including stop signs during the pilot year on Aubinwood (at Alpine and Ash Lane) to prevent people from using Aubinwood as their speed-through alternative.

Survey Results

Last fall, we conducted a survey to elicit suggestions and feedback for addressing neighborhood traffic and pedestrian safety concerns. Based on a review of survey results (69 individuals responded), and discussion among the board and neighbors at our annual meeting in February 2017, the EHN board is proposing the following:

  1. Installation of 3-way stops at the corner of Aubinwood & Heatherstone (to reduce speed for neighbors crossing to the pond and children biking at this intersection) and at the corner of Aubinwood, Heatherstone & Stony Hill (to augment the existing stop sign facing Stony Hill installed for safety reasons).
  2. A reduced speed limit zone along Heatherstone, inside the existing 30 MPH zone.
  3. New ‘Welcome to Echo Hill North/Slow – kids live here’ signs (wording to be determined) for each entrance to the neighborhood.
  4. At our spring clean-up, we will invite everyone to make homemade lawn signs once again. The board will guide the installation and absence of the signs throughout the year.

Call to Action

Throughout the months of March and April, 2017, we seek to gain the support of the Amherst police for our efforts. Many of you indicated that you would be willing to contact the police – via phone, e-mail or letter. Now is the time! Please address all correspondence to Sergeant Arocho (arochoj@amherstma.gov) or the Chief of Police, Scott Livingstone (police@amherstma.gov), phone: 413-259-3014. We would like the police to see our concerns before we approach them in person in early April. A sample letter is available from the EHN board. Please e-mail or call weekly if you can. Thank you in advance!