WINDHAM — Police Chief Gerald Lewis said the 25 mph speed limit on Westchester Road recently set by selectmen is illegal and unenforceable.
Selectmen set the lower-than-normal speed limit on a motion by Selectman Bruce Breton after accepting the street as a town road. The vote was 3-2 in favor.
Both Lewis and fire Chief Tom McPherson, who leads the town's Highway Safety Committee, said the speed limit won't hold up in court if it's ever challenged because the selectmen's decision needs to be backed up with a traffic study.
Under state law, a residential street is supposed to be posted for 30 mph unless a traffic study determines that a lower or higher speed is warranted, Lewis said.
"It's not that we oppose a speed limit of 25," McPherson said, "but there's a process that should be followed. Otherwise, it could be successfully challenged in court."
"It's an illegal speed limit," Lewis said. "If we wrote a speeding ticket and it was challenged, a judge would throw it out of court."
Lewis said his department is equipped to do a traffic study to see if a speed limit below 30 mph is warranted, but to arbitrarily assess the lower speed limit causes a problem.
Breton said he will continue to push for 25 mph speed limits on residential roads when those roads come before the selectmen to be accepted as town roads.
"I don't care about the bureaucratic stuff," Breton said. "If residents in town want a new road to be 25 mph, I will try to do that when a new road is being accepted. If it gets people to slow down and saves just one life, I think it's worth it."
The fact that the town doesn't have any sidewalks is one of the reasons Breton said he wants the lower speed limits.