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Town supports NHDOT proposal

April 20, 2011
Both the Board of Selectmen and Gilford residents support the New Hampshire Department of Transportation's recommended safety improvements to Route 11A.

During a Board of Selectmen meeting last Wednesday night, the board reviewed NHDOT's recommended alterations to 11A along Belknap Mountain Road and Schoolhouse Hill Road, and looked to the public before making a final decision.

After hearing positive remarks from residents, the board decided to go ahead with DOT's latest recommendations, with a few suggestions of their own.

The board is currently in the process of sending a letter to the state on their stance; if all goes accordingly, DOT would put their proposal to work as soon as possible to avoid further potential accidents at the site.

"We are looking to mitigate some of the accident causes on Belknap Road and along School House Road," explained Selectman Hayes, while pointing out a map of proposed improvements to the audience.

Selectmen provided the public with a summary of NHDOT recommendations, including the installation of sidewalks along Route 11A, increased speed limit enforcement, the relocation of or trimming of certain trees which may cause visual impairments along Schoolhouse Hill Road, and the clearing of vegetation, another visual obstruction, along the intersection.

Other suggestions include the installation of an "Intersection Ahead" sign that faces Schoolhouse Road, the enlargement of speed limit signs, the removal of directional signs and installation of rumble strips, and the lowering of the grade along Route 11A eastbound and relocation of an existing guardrail, to be moved further away from the westbound section of the intersection.

While many of these suggestions have been taken into consideration by the Selectmen, the board also had a few suggestions of their own to submit to DOT, including a proposal to paint speed limits right into the pavement for increased visibility, since speed is prominent issue along the intersection.

Hayes noted that the rise along Belknap Mountain Road, towards Schoolhouse, has been a concern to many, although the leveling out of this section has also referred to as a "last case scenario" by DOT.

Gilford resident Mark Corry said he had some concerns with the idea of moving back the guardrails, since a river runs right behind the site, and felt that the intersection should instead by leveled out first, and perhaps relocated second.

"You mentioned moving the rails back; how far can you move them before impacting the river right there?" asked Corry. "I suggest you look at the leveling first."

Selectman Gus Benavides said he asked himself the same question about the nearby body of water, although he noted that the rail would only be pushed back 36 inches.

While Benavides said he appreciated Corry's comments, and felt them to be relevant, he added that this proposal is really in the power of the state at this point in time, and is not necessarily driven by the Selectmen, although the board is in support of its efforts.

"We, as Selectmen, have pushed for this in regards to the intersection for four years. We are happy to see DOT is now on the scene," said Benavides.

Gilford resident Susan Leach said she was pleasantly surprised to hear that DOT was currently targeting Route 11A.

"I am glad this issue is being addressed. It would be nice if we could plow the snow back a little more in the winter. I am like a sitting duck in my car, and have to stick out half way just to see at times," said Leach.

Another resident of Gilford said she was also glad to see that the intersection was finally receiving improvements. She said her son had once gotten into an accident in that very intersection, and while he survived, his car did not.

Several residents noted that abutters to the intersection and neighbors along the Gilford Village area were also happy to hear about the potential safety improvements to Route 11A – a town concern for several years.

During the public hearing, it was also noted that DOT did not suggest installing traffic lights at the intersection. Town Administrator Scott Dunn explained that while the state had initially considered a set of lights, the proposal seemed out of the question at this point.

"A set of lights was bantered about a previous meeting, yet the numbers of vehicles that pass through the intersection are not sufficient enough to install a set of lights," said Dunn, who added that a set of lights also comes at a high price – something the state might not be able to take on at this time.

At the end of the public hearing, the board agreed to write a letter to the state, in favor of the majority of proposed safety improvements to Route 11A.

North Country Environmental
Martin Lord Osman
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