Schoharie pushing for lower speed limit


By Jim Poole

Tired of unsafe traffic, officials and residents are hoping to reduce the speed limit on Routes 30 and 30A in Schoharie.
The routes in question run from I-88 to the Schoharie village line, where the speed limits are 50 or 55. The push is to lower the speed to 40 or 45.
The state Department of Transportation, which sets the limits, might entertain a formal request from local government to start a study, and even then, the limit might not be lowered. (See related story.)
Several recent fatal accidents, including the limo tragedy that claimed 20 lives last October, were reportedly caused by factors other than speed, according to officials. However, those crashes increased attention to the speed limits.
Schoharie County Sheriff Ron Stevens pointed to curves, driveways and entrances to businesses, especially around Schoharie Valley Farms and The Apple Barrel.
“The speed should be reduced,” Sheriff Stevens said. “There are limited sight distances for a long stretch.”
And, he said, at 50 miles per hour, it takes just a few seconds of driver inattention to cause a crash.
Lowering the speed, Sheriff Stevens added, would take drivers only a bit longer to travel the route safely.
Assemblyman Chris Tague agreed. As Schoharie supervisor a few years ago, he and others lobbied DOT to lower the limit without success.
“We tried for 30 miles per hour,” Mr. Tague said. “We knew that was too low, but we figured DOT would lower it from 50 or 55. They didn’t.”
A native of the area, the Assemblyman still travels the two routes, often driving 40 miles per hour, which he feels is safe.
“And there’s always somebody right on my tail,” Mr. Tague said. “I don’t care if they’re mad at me. It’s a safe speed.”
Bart Finegan has a bird’s-eye view of the traffic. He’s lived next to the BOCES Center on 30A and has watched traffic steadily increase in number and speed.
“Over the years it’s gotten faster and faster,” Mr. Finegan said. “At four o’clock, you can’t even get across the road. It’s much too fast.”
He’s also concerned about the steep Route 30 hill, where the limit is 55 until drivers approach the intersection near The Apple Barrel.
“There’s a sign for 50, and you can see the stop sign only 300 yards away,” Mr. Finegan said. “I’m on my brakes all the way down the hill.”
Mr. Finegan corresponded with DOT over the past few years, and the basic response has been that if the limit is lowered, drivers will still drive 50 and be in violation.
DOT has made one change. Schoharie Supervisor Alan Tavenner said DOT lowered the limit from 55 to 50 near I-88, though he agreed that speed should be reduced to the village line.
At the same time, Mr. Tavenner isn’t optimistic that DOT will act again.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have the authority to change the speed limits on state roads,” he said.
“Albany seems to know what’s best for all of us these days.”