ENFIELD, N.Y.—Ithaca succeeded in getting its speed limits lowered city-wide, but another municipality was blocked by New York State from doing the same for a single problematic road.

Town of Enfield officials had launched an effort to lower the speed limit on Hayts Road in the town, but were rejected in a letter from the New York State Department of Transportation, which has authority over certain road speed limits, sent earlier this month. A resolution, passed by the Town Board, had asked for a speed limit reduction on the road between its intersections with Sheffield Road and Sage Road—about a two mile stretch of roadway.

The effort began after Carmen Jacks was killed in an incident in August 2018.

Jacks, who was 82 years old, was crossing the street outside her house in the 400 block of Hayts Road when she was struck by an eastbound car. Jacks died from her injuries; the driver of the vehicle was not ticketed since police determined at the time that “pedestrian error” caused the crash, according to the New York State Police.

Despite this, Regional Traffic Engineer Scott Bates said that the testing the department had conducted did not substantiate the need for a lower speed limit. He said that officials had “reviewed the crash history at this location, documented field conditions, and performed multiple test drives at various speeds along this route.”

“They determined that the appropriate speed is the statutory speed limit of 55 mph, which would be considered the prevailing free-flow speed, at which the majority of the drivers are driving,” reads the letter. “Drivers are more influenced more by the appearance of the highway and prevailing traffic speeds, rather than a posted speed limit. Setting the speed limit at the prevailing free-flow speed decreases conflicts, minimizes crashes, and makes it easier for vehicles and pedestrians to judge the speed of approaching vehicles.”

The letter was not discussed at the last Town Board meeting other than board member Robert Lynch reading it aloud, though he later commented that the study did not explicitly address the sight line issues that were part of the initial concerns with the road and influenced the board’s decision to ask for a speed limit reduction.

Matt Butler

Matt Butler is the Managing Editor at the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached by email at mbutler@ithacavoice.com