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State engineers pitch safety improvements at the intersection of Routes 25 and 153

August 05, 2010
EFFINGHAM State engineers shared their plans for safety improvements at the intersection of Routes 25 and 153, during a public forum last week at the town office.

Between 2000 and 2008, there were a total of 21 accidents at the intersection, of which three were fatal. There were also a number of other serious crashes, said New Hampshire Department of Transportation Preliminary Design Engineer John Butler at the meeting on July 27.

"That's not a particularly high crash rate for a typical rural intersection like this," said Butler. "But the severity is high."

Prior to the forum, engineers met with local officials, including police officers, to find out what the issues were at the intersection. They determined that drivers on Route 153 tend to make rolling right turns onto Route 25 where the traffic is moving very fast. There is a bit of a sight distance issue at the intersection because the grade of Route 153 rises just before it meets Route 25. There's a stop sign and an overhead flashing light at the intersection, but drivers don't seem to pay attention to them.

"While we were there, people were still blowing the stop sign with law enforcement standing there," said Selectman Bill Piekut who attended the meeting with the engineers, police, and Freedom's fire chief.

Resident Sheila Jones also expressed concern about speeders in the area. Some of them are going more than 60 miles per hour, she said.

"You can't fix stupid, so you have to fix the roads," said Jones. "They go so fast it's incredible."

The engineers identified four relatively easy and inexpensive improvements that could be made. The first is clearing trees and grading within the right-of-way along Route 25 westbound. Doing so would create about 800 feet of sight distance. The second is installing a raised concrete island with a stop sign on Route 153. The intersection would be widened so that trucks can turn. The third is to install temporary rumble strips on Route 153 southbound. The rumble strips would be placed across the travel lane in order to get drivers to slow down and start paying attention. The rumble strips can be made permanent if residents like them or taken out if they don't, said Butler. The fourth item is to install a "stop ahead" sign just before the bend on Route 153 southbound. The estimated cost of the improvements is $80,000.

State Rep. Joe Fleck (R-Wakefield) wondered whether the 21 accidents involved factors like alcohol and weather.

Craig Green, DOT's assistant director of project development, replied that one of the most significant accidents was caused by a failure to yield. Between 2003 and 2007, only one of the accidents was caused by substance abuse. Another 15 seemed to be caused by inattention.

One woman was concerned that the engineers weren't doing anything to improve the intersection of Green Mountain Road and Route 25. The woman said another driver cut her off coming from Green Mountain Road as she was heading eastbound on Route 25.

Green Mountain Road is located directly across from Route 153 north. Drivers sometimes mistake it for Route 153 south, said meeting attendees.

The engineers replied that they felt there was plenty of sight distance from that direction.

But Green Mountain Road resident Fran Marchand said it's difficult for drivers with small cars to see oncoming vehicles heading east across the intersection on Route 25 from Green Mountain Road because there is a guardrail in the way. Marchand suggested moving the guardrail 10 feet back.

State Rep. Susan Wiley (D-Sandwich) asked about the timeline. The engineers replied if the project were to go forward as presented, the work would begin next spring. The state would advertise for bids late this summer. After that, the successful bidder's contract would have to be approved by the Governor and Executive Council, which could happen in October or November. If moving the guardrail is included that would mean advertising for bidders in late fall or winter.

This project came to DOT's attention through State Rep. Mark McConkey (R-Freedom), other local officials, and also through the Highway Safety Improvement Program.

Federal Highway Administration and other agencies became concerned about the 40,000 fatal car accidents that were happening annually across the country. One initiative was the highway safety improvement plan, which provides funding for modest improvements that would reduce serious car accidents. New Hampshire receives about $5.5 million in funds. In order to be eligible, there has to be crash data that shows there's a problem in the area.

"There have been some very serious crashes at that intersection," said Green.

In May of 2009, Tuftonboro teenager Christopher Follansbee was killed at the intersection when he failed to stop and drove into the path of a westbound Jeep. Follansbee's passengers were airlifted to Maine Medical Center. A passenger in the Jeep was taken to Huggins Hospital. The Jeep's driver was uninjured.

The engineers plan to evaluate the public input and then meet with selectmen from Freedom and Effingham.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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