From Schoharie to Middleburgh: Slow down!


By Jim Poole

Loudly calling for traffic to slow down, about 50 people urged the state to lower speed limits on Routes 30 and 30A from I-88 to Middleburgh Thursday night.
The meeting, held at the Schoharie Firehouse to get public opinion on speed limits, drew people who live along the routes and drive them daily.
Opinions were almost unanimous.
The state Department of Transportation––whose representatives did not attend––sets speed limits, and Senator Jim Seward and Assemblyman Chris Tague will take the public comments to press DOT. (See related story.)
“DOT has traffic engineers,” said Senator Seward, “but the real experts are those who live along 30 and 30A and travel them every day.”
Speaker after speaker followed, almost all of them arguing to lower the stated limits of 50 and 55 miles per hour.
“The speed limit is just unacceptable,” said Barton Finegan, long a lower-limit advocate who lives on 30A near the Apple Barrel.
“If you reduce it to 40, it will take just another minute. I don’t understand why DOT doesn’t make changes.”
Others argued that lines of sight near the Carrot Barn and Apple Barrel are poor for drivers pulling into traffic at 50 miles per hour.
Bob Price served with the Scho-Wright Ambulance Service for nine years and went to many accidents on the two routes.
“And I was on duty only one day a week,” Mr. Price said. “If DOT doesn’t make changes, there’s going to be a repeat.”
Several speakers pointed to other poor sight lines by the Stony Brook Road-Route 30 intersection south of Schoharie.
“There are so many blind spots on Route 30,” said Sean Byrne.
A few people referenced the horrific accident in October 2018 when a limo barreled down the steep hill on 30 and crashed near the Apple Barrel.
While that was likely vehicle failure, it was another example of how dangerous the hill is and that the limit should be lowered.
Schoharie Mayor Larry Caza offered several suggestions for improved safety and blasted DOT for not lowering limits after past requests.
“Don’t tell me that cost-analysis doesn’t warrant it,” Mayor Caza said. “The loss of life warrants it.”
Schoharie County Sheriff Ron Stevens noted that cars today are safer, quieter and stop faster.
“One thing that hasn’t improved are the drivers,” Sheriff Stevens said.
“If you leave the speed limit at 50, they’ll drive 55 or 60. Shoot for 40 and settle for 45.”
Many offered other safety measures besides lowering the limit. Jessica Kirby, whose family owns the Apple Barrel, suggested more prominent speed limit signs and making Route 30 a Scenic Byway, a move that would encourage slower driving.
Among others, Pat Clancy suggested a full traffic light at the Route 7-Route 30 intersection instead of the blinking light now.
Only Bob Vedder, who drives large trucks, argued that 50 miles per hour was appropriate. Inattentive auto drivers who pull out in front of trucks are more of a problem, he said.
“If you’re going through there in a large truck, you’ve gotta be on your toes,” Mr. Vedder said.
Assemblyman Tague said he and Senator Seward will take the public comments and meet with DOT. There will be a public follow-up meeting, Assemblyman Tague said.
Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara also attended Thursday’s session.