PITTSFIELD — The city Traffic Commission has approved a change to school zone speed requirements, allowing higher driving speeds when no child-related activities are in progress.
Commission member and City Councilor Christopher Connell said the proposal grew from an emailed complaint in the spring from a constituent who'd been charged with speeding on a weekend, based on the school-zone maximum of 20 mph, rather than the normal maximum speed in that area, typically 35 mph.
The school zones, which extend out 300 feet from the eight elementary or middle school properties, were marked by signs but not posted as to whether the lower speed is in effect, Connell said. But he said that could change. He said Friday afternoon that city crews had installed at least one of the new signs, on Williams Street near Herberg Middle School.
Based on the request from Connell, and following a report on the city's options in the matter from Commissioner of Public Services David Turocy, the Traffic Commission voted 3-0 to accept the option of adding a time frame detail to the school zone speed limit signs.
Past discussion of the idea before the City Council had led to the question of when the lower speed limit should be in effect, considering that many after-school activities are scheduled in school buildings. Connell said he asked Turocy to research state and federal requirements, and the commissioner explained several possible options on Thursday.
Turocy said that under the regulations, the times and/or days of the week when the lower speed limit is enforced could be spelled out on a traffic sign. But he noted that it would be difficult to cover all possible times when school activities are in progress.
Alternatively, the city could post signs that say the lower speed limit is in effect "when children are present," Turocy said, adding, "I think that's reasonable for some of these locations."
Connell proposed adoption of the signage change, but said he felt uncomfortable not hearing from Traffic Commission member Capt. John Mullin of the Pittsfield Police Department on the issue of enforcement, as Mullin was absent from the meeting, as was commissioner Mark Brennan.
But commission Chairman Guy Pannesco said he is confident Pittsfield officers can make reasonable determinations as to when the "when children are present" qualification would apply and when a higher speed limit would be in effect.
Connell, Pannesco and Richard Laureyns voted unanimously to approve the change.
The issued, which was earlier referred by the council to the Traffic Commission for a recommendation, will now go back to the council for a final vote, Connell said, likely on Aug. 9.
Connell said Friday that it is his understanding that some signs specifying when the speed zone is in effect now are required by state regulation.
Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.