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Three-way stop in Gilford is here to stay


November 17, 2010
More than 20 residents signed a petition in favor of removing the three-way stop at Sunset, Bedford, and Ridgewood Avenue in Gilford, but after hearing from residents who support the new stop signs, the Board of Selectmen has decided to them in place.

Resident Joe Polovick of Countryside Drive asked that the speed limit be dropped on the roads rather than regulating speed with the three-way stop, which he said is an inconvenience to those who live on the surrounding roads. This area is known as the "Laconia Bypass" to some commuters who cut through Gilford to avoid Union Avenue.

Selectmen said the safety of young children on nearby streets comes before driver inconvenience, and many residents who spoke during the board meeting last Wednesday night were in favor of keeping the stop sign up.

Resident Ernest Goodwin has lived on the corner of Sleeper Hill Road since 1987 said he is for the three-way stop sign. For the first time in years, he said traffic has reduced significantly along these once potentially "dangerous" roads.

"A lot of people use those roads for walking their dogs or walking with their kids," said Goodwin. "Many people use it to avoid Union Ave in Laconia to get to Lakeport."

Drivers are also slowing down in preparation for the newly installed stop sign ahead, said Goodwin. He added that he has seen his share of accidents in the area.

"There are also lots of houses with children beyond the stop sign. It's a good thing," said Goodwin. "Traffic at noon and 5 p.m. used to be unbelievable. At least with the stop signs, people will have to stop and think a little bit."

He said he believes many drivers would rather go through the lights or find an alternate route rather than stopping at another stop sign.

Carolyn Ellingson of Ridgewood said she also supports the stop signs, although she would oppose the use of speed bumps.

"Instead of ignoring the stop signs, please think of the young children," said Ellingson in defense of the new stop. "Stopping at the sign will only add a few seconds to your time."

Nearby neighbor Kristin Jarvi's lawn was actually the site of a high speed chase gone bad earlier this year when a car spun out in front of her house. She said that her two young children could have easily been playing out in the yard during this incident, but fortunately they were not.

"Yes it is an inconvenience, but it is also a safety concern," said Jarvi. "You could change the speed limit, but people will still speed on the road."

She added that it has also been difficult until now to cross the road to meet her children who get off the bus every afternoon and that she must be extra cautious of the speeding traffic around a blind corner.

Resident Blythe Gustafson said ever since the stop sign has been installed, she can now allow her kids to ride their bikes on the street, something she found to be too dangerous before.

"In just the last few months, traffic has been going slower," said Gustafson. "My 10-year-old boy can ride his bike up the street now and we don't have to worry as much about traffic and speed."

Resident Paul Warnick agreed with other speakers and said that the "demographic" has changed quite a bit since the stop was installed and that almost half of the neighborhood has young children.

"There has been a noticeable reduction in speed, although I have heard the stopping and going. However this does improve the safety. It is also easier to pull in and out of our driveway," said Warnick.

He said he had concerns with pets on the road, and even simple things such as going out to fetch the mail in heavy traffic was worrisome before improvements were made.

"Drivers have many other options, so if stop signs are a nuisance, take another road. Thanks to the stop sign, my street is now safer," said Warnick.

After much public comment Selectman Gus Benavides said he knew these specific roads were a concern worth looking into, yet he did not realize how hazardous the roads were.

"This seems like the most dangerous road in Gilford," said Benavides.

He asked if the road had ever been studied, not including the studies done in the last few months.

Finance Director Geoff Ruggles said he has lived on the Ridgewood Ave for over a decade now and does recall concerns made over the traffic and speeding years ago, but it has become more of a concern over the past few years.

"It's unfortunate that the town did not address this years ago. We are always going to air on the side of Gilford, especially when children are involved," said Benavides.

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