Town looks to lower downtown speed limit


March 04, 2009
TILTON — Whether or not the town gets state funding for a crosswalk light downtown, Tilton selectmen agree that Main Street pedestrians are at risk no matter where they cross because the speed limit is too high.

Conversation turned to traffic at last week's Board of Selectmen meeting, when Selectman Norm Boudreau voiced concerns regarding Northfield resident William Tinker's push for increased pedestrian safety in downtown Tilton. Boudreau said a recent article in the Echo had brought to his attention the fact that Tinker has been urging Police Chief Robert Cormier to do something specifically about the crosswalk in the middle of downtown, near Town Hall.

"If this thing becomes an issue like he's pushing with the sidewalk business, I don't want the town to have to do that," Boudreau said, referring to the lawsuit Tinker won against the Town of Tilton, after Tilton failed to maintain a stretch of sidewalks during the winter months.

Boudreau said he wanted the board to publicly make a statement regarding its position.

"We feel it's a state issue and not a town issue," he said.

Select board Chair Katherine Dawson agreed but said they should decide whether they even want a light there before Cormier moves forward.

Cormier said that at this point his research is simply exploratory. He said he's been in contact with Bill Lambert from the state Department of Transportation, and Lambert had suggested a crosswalk light downtown back when he visited in the fall. Cormier said he'd talked to Lambert earlier in the week, and Lambert wants to come back to meet with him about the town's options and possible money that may be available for the project. Cormier said he wanted to get facts and figures before approaching the board.

Dawson asked whether there had been any incidents or serious accidents at that particular intersection, and as far as Cormier was aware, there had not. Dawson wasn't convinced that a light is necessary.

"You don't have to cross the street all in one fell swoop," she said, speaking of the statue in the middle of the intersection.

Selectman David Wadleigh disagreed.

"You can't see them (pedestrians) until they get out (into the road)," he said.

Dawson asked resident Cecile Robert, who was the only member of the public at the meeting at the time, what she thought.

"If you aren't on your guard, you're gonna get killed out there in front of town hall," Robert said.

Robert said there's too much room on both sides of the road, so that cars that stop to turn get passed on the right. She pointed to the time the bridge that heads to Northfield was repaired, and a light was put up during construction.

"I think that should come back," she said. "Anything would help."

Speaking of traffic problems, Dawson had another issue.

"What do we need to do to get our speed limit lowered?" she asked. "That's been an issue for years."

Cormier said he wants to put it down to 25 mph. His solution right now, though, is to put the speed trailer the department recently purchased right at that downtown intersection. He said speed details are starting this week, which should also help slow people down.

"We've got to do something to slow the traffic down so that someone who's crossing where they're not supposed (is safe)," Dawson said.

"Unfortunately this is Tilton and not Concord, and people are too used to doing it (jaywalking)," Boudreau said.

Wadleigh asked if the town could set its own speed limits. Dawson said the last time she inquired, she was told the town would have to do a traffic study first.

"Now we can do that with the (speed) trailer," Selectman Pat Consentino said.

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