By Joshua Maloni
Members of the Village of Lewiston Board of Trustees said they're hopeful the third time will be the charm in requesting a lowering of Center Street's speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph.
At a joint meeting with the Town of Lewiston Town Council Monday, Mayor Terry Collesano said petitions from his board to reduce the speed limit, and one from St. Peter R.C. Church, have been rejected by the New York State Department of Transportation.
"They will not reduce it," Collesano said.
Consequently, the Village Board will try a third option.
"As I understand it through Sen. (Rob) Ortt's office, this (state roadway speed limit) is enacted by the State Legislature, so he's suggesting that both the Town Board and Village Board do a resolution to this effect, that you want to reduce (the speed limit) to 25. And then send a copy to our assemblyman, as well as our senator, and just see what happens from there."
Lewiston Police Department Chief Frank Previte said, "I agree wholeheartedly that it should be 25 miles an hour. I drive 25 miles an hour down that street anyway, because ... it's just too much happening."
However, he noted, "The real issue on Center Street really isn't the speed. We'll get rare instances where cars are doing an excessive amount. ... Having said that, anybody who's traveled that road at 30 miles an hour, with the New York state law the way it is with the crosswalks, that's a hazard. Going that fast, trying to stop - if you don't see people, (you're) slamming on your brakes at 30 miles an hour. And just being able to recognize there are people in that intersection, with as congested as that street is, with the parking alongside and everything else, I think it makes a lot more sense for it to be lower."
Center Street has a half-dozen crosswalk-designated areas where pedestrians have the right of way. Over the past four years, both Previte and former LPD Chief Chris Salada have written columns, taken pictures with crosswalk signs and, at public meetings, reminded residents of the law that requires motorists to yield to walkers. Despite those efforts, passersby can daily observe drivers disobeying the statute.
"I don't believe the town would have any objection to 25 in the village," Supervisor Steve Broderick said. "Anything to take the next step, we'd be supportive of that."
"Twenty-five would be the answer. It really would," he added.
"I agree," Councilwoman Beth Ceretto said.
On Aug. 28, 2014, the Village of Lewiston submitted a formal request to the DOT asking for a speed limit reduction in the wake of a fatal pedestrian/car accident on Center Street.
"Center Street has several crosswalks and if the speed limit is lowered it will be safer for pedestrians to cross," former Clerk/Treasurer Anne Welch wrote.
St. Peter's sent a letter on Dec. 7, 2015, asking for a 15-mph school zone between North Seventh and North Sixth streets (minimum distance) or between North Eighth and North Fifth streets (maximum distance).
"As Center Street becomes increasingly busy, we feel compelled to make this request to you in the hopes that all motorists will drive more slowly and cautiously in this child-friendly zone," wrote the Rev. Monsignor David LiPuma and Principal Maureen Ingham.
In a reply letter, DOT Regional Traffic Engineer Thomas Messana wrote, "It is the policy of the New York State Department of Transportation to establish a school speed limit only on roadways which are directly abutted by the school property. St. Peter School property does not abut Center Street; therefore, we have determined that we will not establish a school speed limit on Center Street."
On Feb. 1, Collesano sent a letter asking the DOT to reconsider. He wrote, in part, "It is the Village of Lewiston's sincere belief that a speed reduction on Center Street would be in the best interest of our citizens. The Village of Lewiston has become a destination and a walking community. Everyday throughout the year citizens are walking on our sidewalks and using our crosswalks. We have heard several times that Center Street traffic goes (too) fast.
"The Village of Lewiston does not find your answers to our request to fit the needs of our community. We would hope that you will reconsider our original request to lower the Center Street speed limit from 30 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour. We would also appreciate it if you would reconsider a speed limit reduction in front of the St. Peter's RC Church."
Messana replied three weeks later, and said traffic studies indicated 30 mph is appropriate. He also said state law regulated where school speed zones could be enacted. As St. Peter's School is on North Sixth Street, it does not meet the criteria.
"I don't think (that's) a good enough explanation," Previte said. "If you go to the same kind of situation, where you find like a Niagara-on-the-Lake, it's not 30 miles an hour - although it's a different measure there. It's not the same, because of the pedestrian traffic and the crosswalks that are there."