Residents of Potsdam road seek end to ‘speedway’

Residents of Austin Ridge Road in Potsdam are seeking a reduced speed limit on the road due to safety worries. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

POTSDAM — Heavy traffic, high speeds and an Austin Ridge Road woman who said she was nearly killed on multiple occasions by drivers or trains are the impetus behind a petition seeking to have a reduced speed limit set on the road.

Tracey Haggett-Sloan, of 295 Austin-Ridge Road, brought the concerns, in the form of a petition signed by residents of the road, before the Town Board during its Nov. 6 meeting.

“We the residents of Austin Ridge Road have willingly signed the attached petition formally requesting that a speed limit of 45 mph or lower be set, posted and enforced by the county sheriff or New York State Police,” Town Supervisor Ann M. Carvill read from the petition, which was created by Mrs. Haggett-Sloan.

Mrs. Haggett-Sloan said she carried it to each of the residents and for those that weren’t home, she left a note behind, letting residents know she would return to have them sign it, if interested.

“I am formally requesting that the Town Supervisor, Highway Superintendent and all Board Members review and discuss the wishes of the residents of Austin Ridge,” the petition concluded.

Mrs. Haggett-Sloan, who was also in attendance at the meeting, told the Town Board that the 36 to 37 residents of Austin Ridge Road were living on a “speedway.”

“It’s dangerous. There’s one corner, as you get on the Norfolk end, it’s blind,” she said. “I try to walk my granddaughter in a stroller every day and it’s like taking my life in my hands.”

She said during one of those walks she was run off the road and ended up in a neighbor’s field.

“I was literally in his field because somebody was completely off that corner trying to stay on the road,” she said. “The road shouldn’t be traveled at 55 or 65, some people just decide to do that.”

She said much of the traffic she’s seen on Austin Ridge Road comes from Canton in the morning and that it’s an added danger come April and May, just beyond McGinnis Road, near three Amish-owned gardening businesses, where customers park on both sides of the road.

“They don’t have proper parking space, so we are down to one lane and you do have heavy traffic coming through there, school buses and whatever,” she said. “I’m surprised that there haven’t been more accidents just in that little congested area.”

In addition, Mrs. Haggett-Sloan said there is a stretch of train tracks owned by Vermont Rail that crosses over Austin Ridge Road and that there have been issues with the train failing to signal that it was coming. Compounded with the issues of drivers speeding, she said there had been an instance where, again, she was almost killed.

“It was a couple of years ago,” she said. “I almost got rear ended by a guy who was following me in the snow and the train did not signal and all of the sudden the train was there and I put on my brakes and he (the other driver) slammed on his brakes and he went off (the road).

“I called Vermont Rail and they claim their black box said, ‘oh no, he signaled.’ I said, ‘I almost hit the train and the guy behind me almost hit me,” she said. “But it’s not clear there either.”

Town Highway Superintendent John Keleher said in order to have Austin Ridge Road considered for a lower speed limit, the town board would have to pass a resolution to the St. Lawrence County highway superintendent, who would then notify the state.

“The state will send an engineer to the road and they will sit there all day long and they will track traffic, they will travel the road to make sure for sight distance signage and that will be in all the calculations,” Mr. Keleher said.

He said on Austin Ridge Road, you aren’t going to have to sit in many places very long before you see people driving 70 mph.

“Because of the way Route 56 and Route 11 are constructed, that they are now down to 45 mph, everybody that travels from Massena comes down the River Road, then goes down her road (Austin Ridge), then on to the county road, then all the town roads to get past all these 40 miles an hour, so they can travel 60 to 70.”

Mrs. Carvill said the Town Board will be referring the petition and concern to the county highway superintendent following the passage of a resolution next month that will seek a 45 mph or lower speed limit for the entire length of Austin Ridge Road, from County Route 35 to River Road.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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