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North Salem Officials Pave Way For Safer Roads

The DOT has agreed to lower the speed limit on several North Salem roads.
The DOT has agreed to lower the speed limit on several North Salem roads. Photo Credit: Katherine Pacchiana

NORTH SALEM, N.Y. – The Daily Voice reported on May 30 that North Salem Town officials have finally managed to get some of the town’s speed limits reduced . Here is the story behind the story:

About 35 years ago, North Salem and Ridgefield each had a population of about 5,000 people. Today, Ridgefield is up to about 25,000, whereas North Salem has held to a steady population of about 5,000 humans, plus several hundred of horses.

During commuting hours many Connecticut residents cut through North Salem to reach their jobs or get to Metro-North. A study showed that the number of cars traveling on Route 116/121, for example, reached about 7,500 and Hardscrabble Road reached 10,000 per day. Most of them have Connecticut license plates.

While some come from Ridgefield, others get off I-84 at Exit 21 to bypass the I-684 interchange, then come down 121 and/or Hardscrabble Road.

North Salem Supervisor Warren Lucas said, "The Town has been talking with the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) to see if we can get the I-84 and I-684 intersection improved (as well as I-684 in Katonah, where it goes down to two lanes) but currently there’s no money in the DOT budget to make those improvements."

As state roads, Routes 116 and 121 are governed by state regulations. North Salem plows and de-ices those roads, the DOT provides paving and road repairs. By state law, any town with a population of less than 50,000 may not set its own speed limits, even on town roads. The DOT sets the limit on all roads.

For several years, North Salem has been seeking a dispensation to lower some speed limits, especially on unpaved streets. Wallace Road, for example, is consistently used as a shortcut from Ridgefield. Lucas points out there are multiple horse farms on Wallace and elsewhere and residents themselves like to walk along the dirt roads.

Lucas has received complaints from Ridgefield residents. One wrote, “I want to know why this road is not paved? With all due respect to the citizens who live on Wallace Road, must we [Connecticut drivers] presume that they own this road? Is it not the property of the general public, U.S. citizens and those who use it for their transit?”

Lucas responded that Wallace Road is owned and maintained by the town of North Salem. “With all due respect, the North Salem Town Board is interested in the greater good but is especially interested in maintaining the rural character of the town.” He added that paving the road “is not something we would entertain, even if it were done for free.”

To compensate for the inconvenience, Lucas points out that one of the benefits of living in Ridgefield is its property taxes – about half of North Salem’s. Although Wallace Road residents are glad to see the speed limit reduced, they continue to object to the number of cars driving through. Even at a lower speed, said one resident, the traffic raises enough dust to create health problems for everyone outside, pedestrian, equestrian and equine alike. Some would like to see the road closed altogether.

With North Salem’s thanks to Sen. Greg Ball, who paved the way, and Assemblyman David Buchwald, who completed the process, the DOT has granted a speed reduction to 25 mph on several town roads. Town officials hope it will relieve some problems. New signs have been ordered already.

The roads affected include Hunt Lane, Wallace Road, Baxter Road, Vails Lane, Norton Lane and the unpaved section of Nash Road. Paved roads include Post Road, Bogtown Road and Wheeler Road.

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