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DOT unveils plans for Stockbridge Corner



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AN IMAGE OF the plan displayed by representatives from the DOT during an informational forum last week on upcoming safety improvements at the Stockbridge Corner Road intersection. (click for larger version)
April 14, 2010
ALTON — Stockbridge Corner Road residents were, for the most part, pleased with the plans unveiled by representatives from the state Department of Transportation (DOT) last week to improve the safety of vehicles passing through the dangerous intersection.

Welcoming residents to an informational forum on the proposal hosted by the DOT at Prospect Mountain High School on April 8, Project Manager Don Lyford explained that as part of its latest Ten-Year Plan, the department expects to receive $1.25 million toward improvements along Route 28 this year, and an additional $4,125,000 in 2015.

After gathering input from local officials and the Lakes Region and Central New Hampshire Regional planning commissions (which spearheaded an extensive safety study of the entire Route 28 corridor between the Epsom and Alton traffic circles last year), he said, the DOT decided that the Stockbridge Corner Road intersection would be the easiest area to address with the limited funding available this year.

While the intersection itself is "not in too bad a shape" in terms of its profile, Lyford said, much of the expense involved in the project will stem from the need to buy additional land along both sides of the highway in order to widen the road and expand the shoulders.

If all goes well, he said, construction is slated to begin in 2011.

Noting that the DOT is investigating whether construction would have an adverse impact on surrounding homes and properties that have been identified as "potentially historic," Lyford encouraged residents with concerns about that aspect of the project to contact the department at 271-3226 and ask to be included in the process as consultants.

Mike Dugas, the DOT's Chief of Preliminary Design, announced that after completing a traffic study, the department had determined that an average of 7,000 vehicles currently pass through the intersection on a daily basis.

Based on current projections, he said, that number could increase to as many as 12,500 per day within the next 20 years.

The existing 12-foot travel lanes on either side of the highway (which have no shoulders to speak of), Dugas said, are not sufficient to accommodate that much traffic.

Among the other deficiencies engineers listed at the intersection, he said, are the "spur" that provides vehicles on the northbound side of Route 28 with a "shortcut" onto Stockbridge Corner (which he said confuses drivers unfamiliar with the area, who often mistake it for a continuation of Route 28, particularly at night); the narrowness of the road itself; and the limited sight distances for drivers turning onto Route 28 from either side of Stockbridge Corner (a problem that has since been partially corrected by the tornado that tore through the area on July of 2008).

According to Dugas, the improvement plan calls for the reconstruction of 800 feet of Route 28 on either side of the intersection, as well as the eastern and western sides of Stockbridge Corner Road (which will be slightly elevated in order to give drivers turning onto the highway better sight lines).

With the widening of Route 28, he explained, the "spur" will be eliminated and replaced with a dedicated turning lane alongside the proper entrance to Stockbridge Corner.

The southbound lane of Route 28, he said, will also be widened in order to give emergency vehicles turning onto either side of Stockbridge Corner more room to maneuver.

In order to complete the necessary earthwork along Route 28 and create a right-of-way for service vehicles, he explained, the DOT will need to purchase slope easements from abutting property owners.

An easement will also have to be purchased across an abutting property owned by the Fraser family, he said, in order to create a right-of-way enabling crews to maintain the sight line along the northbound side of the highway.

The project, Dugas said, will also entail the re-location of two existing utility poles, and will cost an estimated $1.2 million by the time all is said and done.

Much of the feedback from audience members centered on the nuts and bolts of the project, such as drainage and culvert replacement.

Asked by resident and State Rep. Laurie Boyce whether the project would force the DOT to create a detour around the construction area, Lyford replied that the department intends to keep the road open, if possible.

At worst, he said, drivers might encounter lane closures or night construction.

R.E. Plante, whose machine shop sits just north of the intersection, said he was in favor of any improvements that would reduce the number of accidents he has seen over the years.

"My feeling is, if you can save a few more lives, just do what you have to," he said.

Brendan Berube can be reached at 569-3126 or bberube@salmonpress.com

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