July 12, 2012OSSIPEE — The intersection of Route 28 and Route 171 is well-known by locals for the many traffic accidents that have occurred there. That intersection and the roads leading up to it are now getting focused attention from transportation, planning, and public safety officials.
The draft of a road safety audit that addresses issues regarding that intersection has been received by Ossipee selectmen for their review and comment before the report is considered complete. The audit was completed on June 26 with a meeting attended by the Ossipee Corner Fire Chief, Public Works Director, selectmen, police officers, and representatives from Lakes Region Planning Commission and N.H. Department of Transportation.
The draft report recognizes Ossipee as the county seat for Carroll County, with most county functions being housed on Route 171, about one mile west of Route 28, including the jail, nursing home, sheriff's department, registry of deeds, business office, and the state courthouse and also recognizes that concerns over safety at this intersection have been "ongoing for years."
Route 28, according to the draft report, has an average daily traffic count of 3,398 vehicles northbound (August 2010 count) and an average count of 2,643 southbound. In a traffic count conducted in May 2011, the average daily traffic count on Route 171 is 1,028 vehicles.
During the period of February 2002 to January 2012, there have been 32 crashes involving more than one vehicle and one single-vehicle crash. Although there have been no fatalities in these crashes, the report points out 53 percent of the crashes resulted in injuries. Other interesting crash statistics include that 91 percent of crashes occurred during the daylight and 76 percent of crashes involved Route 171 traffic failing to yield to oncoming traffic.
There were several concerns and comments raised by town officials during the June 26 meeting including:
• Motorists turning onto Route 28 from Route 16 forget to cancel their turn signal and the "slip ramp" at the intersection is not sharp enough to automatically cancel the turn signal. Therefore, as vehicles approach Route 171 motorists waiting to pull out onto Route 28 mistakenly think the southbound cars are turning and pull out in front of them
• The town installed a "check your turn signal" many years ago on private property because, at the time, state officials would not allow a sign to be installed in the state's right-of-way. The sign is very small and not very visible
• Route 28 through traffic has a tendency to veer to the left and cross the centerline when vehicles are turning onto Route 171
• Traffic does not tend to slow down through this intersection where the posted limit is 40 miles per hour. On either side of the intersection it is 55 miles per hour
• The alignment of Route 28 creates a "crest vertical curve" which can interrupt sight distance. Adding to this is that the intersection is not very visible at the as vehicles approach from 171
• The previous police chief suggested a traffic light for the intersection but town officials at the time "did not like the idea"
For short term solutions to the problem, the report recommends the possibility of placing a "check your turn signal" sign that is more visible, removing "third party" signs from the intersection, and ramping up local law enforcement efforts to enforce speed limits.
For the medium term, the report suggests further evaluation to determine the need for an upgraded traffic light, Ossipee Police to investigate the purchase of a speed trailer to enforce speed limits, evaluate the possibility of reconfiguring the intersection as well as the turn onto Route 28 from Route 16.
Long term solutions include investigating the potential for a roundabout to replace the intersection and the potential of removing the crest in Route 28 just north of the intersection.
The report now moves on to N.H. Department of Transportation officials who will prepare a formal response to address the audit findings. Their response is expected to outline what actions they will take to address each safety concern outlined in the report. The audit process allows NHDOT to agree with the report suggestions and commit to adding the project to the transportation improvement plan; provide valid reasons why they choose not to accept the audit team's suggestions and commit to alternatives; or choose not to implement any or all of the team's suggestions. It is expected that selectmen and public works director here will remain part of the process and a final report and recommendations will be presented to them later this summer.