A New London welcome: Speed trap

I should start by saying up front that I have a dog in this fight, a small but lingering grudge about a recent ticket from New London's summerlong speed trap.

Even if you haven't been stopped, you have possibly seen it — cruisers perched along Route 32, police with their speed guns cocked — if you have made your way recently through the city's northeastern gateway.

It's the new New London welcome.

That is where the city seems to have concentrated a lot of the speeding enforcement provided by a $49,650 federal grant, with a 25 percent match from city funds.

The grant application also cited Bank, Colman and Williams streets as needing enforcement. Presumably that has happened, too.

This targeting of Route 32 southbound into the city is one of my peeves, fed, admittedly, by my own ticket.

This section of Route 32, just beyond the downtown, is probably the one section of road in New London most engineered to accommodate speeding cars. It is indeed a limited-access, three-lane expressway.

Wouldn't it be better to stop speeding, if that's your mission, on tighter city streets with close intersections and interface with pedestrians? Speeding in those places must be a lot more dangerous.

Of course there isn't as much speeding in the rest of the city, no other good speed trap pickings. What with traffic, frequent intersections and parked cars, it is hard to speed in the city, even if you try.

But on Route 32, especially the long downhill slalom into downtown, the speed limits are much lower than you would expect for a wide expressway with generous shoulders, 40 mph on the outskirts of downtown and 30 as you approach the first main intersection, and not well marked.

If you really wanted to slow down traffic on this section of road, certainly there are permanent things you could do to calm things down, like a stoplight or stop sign, for instance. Much of what has been accomplished with the speed trap this summer, driver awareness, is almost certainly going to be lost when the grant runs dry.

I have no beef with speed enforcement farther north on Route 32 north, in front of Connecticut College, where there are frequent pedestrian crossings. Maybe I have missed it, but I haven't seen the new enforcement targeting the problematic highway dissecting the college campus, other than flashing speed signs stationed there.

Catching speeders on an expressway with unexpectedly low speed limits, like the southernmost southbound side, seems like shooting ducks in a barrel.

I also question why the understaffed New London Police Department would accept this grant in the first place. Other Connecticut cities said no thanks.

It's not like you could find many city residents, who, when asked about their greatest concerns about crime in the city, would cite speeding.

It's a federal grant and I understand that seems like free money. But even the 25 percent of almost $50,000, which the city has had to kick in, seems like an odd place for the department to focus resources.

After all, the police union this summer said the force is understaffed and overworked and that the long stretches of overtime officers are being made to work are making them less effective in the face of serious crime.

So in this context, the speed traps, while largely funded by the federal grant, are draining the resources of a department under stress, putting officers on more overtime shifts at a time when they collectively say they are overworked and overburdened.

All this in the name of slowing traffic on an expressway clearly built to accommodate fast traffic.

The good news is that the grant will run out soon.

Maybe habits have indeed changed, and traffic speeding into the downtown will be forever tamed.

I certainly won't be speeding there again soon.

Still, I would much rather see New London, and other departments for that matter, line up for grants that support enforcement of laws against cell phone conversations and texting.

This is the opinion of David Collins.

d.collins@theday.com

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