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Raise speed limit in Notch, says Bulis


June 17, 2009
FRANCONIA—Commuting through Franconia Notch has convinced State Rep. Rusty Bulis that the speed limits need to be raised.

"I used to view it as an inconvenience, now I see it as impeding the flow of traffic," Bulis said.

Since being elected a representative from Littleton several years ago, Bulis has spent a lot more time commuting back and forth to Concord and has noticed many of the same cars driving back and forth each day through the Notch.

"A lot of people commute through there," he said.

Currently the speed through the entire Franconia Notch Parkway is 45 mph. This includes a more than two-mile long stretch of the southbound highway that has two lanes and appears like any other stretch of highway. Clearly it does to most drivers.

"The average speed through there is 63 mph," according to Greg Placy, traffic engineer for the Department of Transportation's (DOT) District 1, who got the information from a traffic study commissioned after Bulis' request to change the speed limit, which he made in October.

Most of the rest of the Parkway is one lane in each direction of travel, with a divider between the lanes. The average speed through that section is 55 mph, Placy said.

When Bulis contacted Placy in October he suggested changes to both the north and southbound lanes. This included changing the speed limit in the current one lane 45 mph section to 50 mph, the two lane approach from the south be changed from 45 mph to 55 mph and the two lane section going south be changed to 65 mph.

While this latter section appears like ordinary interstate, unlike most interstates it has a curb, Placy said. This may not necessarily preclude changing the speed limit, but it will mean having to recreate the partnership committee that created the parkway through a memorandum of agreement. The parties on the original committee, and presumably on the new one as well, would have to meet to discuss the proposed changes and approve them. The parties were: the governor's office; DOT; the Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED); the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

Placy said he had no idea how long it would take to put the committee together and thus was unable to give a timeframe how long the process would take.

"Certainly the design of the road would allow higher speeds," Placy said. "We think a higher speed might be needed."

Placy said the approach from the south would have to be looked at carefully because some people may have driven on Interstate 93 a long distance and will not expect a one lane road. It is the only one lane interstate in the country, he said.

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