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Thru truck traffic troubles committee on Lake Waukewan

March 04, 2009
MEREDITH — After a committee raised concerns about the transportation of hazardous materials near Lake Waukewan, the Meredith Board of Selectmen wrote to the state Department of Transportation to begin talking about what can be done.

During the summer months, when tourist traffic often jams the Route 3 and 25 intersection in Meredith for hours, people trying to get to points in and around Meredith often use Winona and Waukewan Roads as a bypass. That bypass, however, is what has the Waukewan Watershed Advisory Committee concerned, when they consider tractor-trailers and trucks hauling hazardous materials on winding roads that border Lake Waukewan.

"The bypass route used by vehicles to avoid Meredith's downtown is not suitable for large trucks," said Town Planner Angela LaBrecque. "These secondary state roads are narrow and windy with poor visibility at times. The Snake River Bridge, located on Waukewan Road, poses a serious rollover and hazardous spill potential into Lake Waukewan. The bridge is narrow and the guardrails are in disrepair."

LaBrecque and Waukewan Watershed Advisory Committee Chair Bruce Bond met with Paul Susca of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services to discuss the potential impact of thru trucking to Lake Waukewan. As Waukewan is the only source for drinking water in Meredith, Susca recommended that the town ask Mark Morrill of District 3 Department of Transportation to address their concerns.

"Traffic volume has increased in recent years, and the addition of the new Hannaford will put additional traffic on the bypass. If the roundabouts are built at the intersections, there will be more traffic on the bypass. It's important to control the type of vehicles on the bypass."

Bond noted that the Snake River Bridge was not posted, meaning "anything legal on the roads of New Hampshire is legal on that bridge." The bridge concerned Bond, who said that there had been accidents on and near the bridge, though none of them had involved tractor-trailers.

Interim Town Manager John Edgar said that the objective at the moment was to discuss the route with the DOT and find if there were ways to decrease the hazards to Lake Waukewan and the watershed from hazardous materials and thru trucking. He noted that they might want to differentiate between trucks that were using the roads as an alternate route, and trucks that were using it to make deliveries to homes and businesses on the roads. LaBrecque noted that it might be a matter of posting the bridge.

Selectman Colette Worsman said she shared the committee's concerns, but did not want to pass regulations that made the town less "business-friendly." She also worried about restrictions on trucks that delivered items to businesses on the roads, like heating oil deliveries.

"When traffic is heavy, they can choose between 10 minutes on the bypass or one hour in traffic," said Worsman. "There's got to be a way to approach this. We've encouraged tourism and become a victim of our own success, in a way. I don't want to be a community that is not friendly to businesses."

Instead, Worsman said, the town should ask the DOT to work on the bridge and get local businesses involved in the process. If they go down this route, she said, it should be a "multifaceted approach, rather than telling them to sit in traffic for an hour."

Selectman Bob Flanders told Worsman that he "categorically" disagreed with her statement. More protection for the lake and watershed, he said would make Meredith more business-friendly.

"Any spill there (at the bridge) will go through the lake much more quickly," said Flanders. "The road isn't safe for trucks with hazardous materials."

Since the bypass also affects the towns of Center Harbor and New Hampton, Bond reported the conservation commissions in both towns had signed off on it. In their later meeting, the Meredth Board of Selectmen agreed unanimously to sign a letter to Morrill, asking him for consideration of different options to work on thru truck traffic on Winona and Waukewan Roads.

Martin Lord Osman
Tilton School
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