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Route 28 safety improvement ideas presented to residents

Volunteers sought for a steering committee on reconstruction project

PUBLIC WORKS DIRECTOR DAVE FORD holds up a ruler to map of intersection along Route 28 at third meeting of series to discuss reconstruction alternatives, on May 24, at the Crescent Lake Elementary School. A Stantech consultant stands ready to answer questions. (Elissa Paquette photo) (click for larger version)
June 02, 2011
WOLFEBORO — Reconstructing Route 28 into a safer gateway into Wolfeboro with greater attention to the needs of pedestrians and cyclists is a community endeavor.

On Tuesday, May 24, Public Works Director Dave Ford and consulting engineers from Stantech held the third of a series of meetings primarily for residents along Route 28 who have a vested interest in developing conceptual plans to enhance the 3.6 mile corridor stretching from the Wolfeboro/Alton town line to Route 109A.

When Ford became aware that the state would not consider accepting grant applications for Route 28 reconstruction unless the town could show that it had engaged in an extensive process that including residents affected by the work, he asked the voters in 2010 to fund such a study. They did, resulting in the collaborative process now in play, called Context Sensitive Solutions.

The first meeting, held last fall, led to the drafting of project and mission statements that declare an intent to integrate community goals in the town's Master Plan to maintain the rural, historic and scenic character of the town with improved safety.

A subsequent meeting solicited feedback on possibilities presented by the engineers for segments four and five, the stretch of road between Christian Ridge Road and Route 109A.

The most recent gathering concentrated on the first three project segments covering Route 28 from the Wolfeboro/Alton town line to Christian Ridge.

The most notorious problem areas overall in terms of traffic flow, visibility, and near and not so near misses – well known to local drivers and the police department alike – are along South Main Street: the Kingswood Golf Course's golf cart crossing; McManus Road, where cars enter and exit from the Kingswood Complex and the nearby Pleasant Valley Road fork; Center Street (which begins at Pickering Corner); and the sharp turn facing Middleton Road at Weston Auto Body, where the road heads toward Alton.

According to information from Lt. Dean Rondeau of the Wolfeboro Police Department, of the 145 reported accidents in Wolfeboro in 2010, South Main Street took the dubious honor of experiencing the most, at 40, followed by 33 on Center Street. In comparison, North Main Street was third on the list at 18.

The year 2009 showed similar results in numbers, with 39 accidents on South Main Street, 26 on Center Street and just 7 on North Main Street. Figures for 2008 and 2007 also show the same top contenders.

The question is what to do and where to start. Stantech overlaid roundabouts over aerial maps of the segments, marked potential bike paths and sidewalks, and an underpass for the golf carts, each with its individual pros and cons.

A traffic light at McManus Road could start and stop traffic throughout the day, changing according to the rate of traffic, but lights use electricity and have to be maintained.

Roundabouts "calm traffic," but their creation in most instances would involve obtaining rights-of-way, and in the case of the Middleton Road, Weston Auto Body, Route 28 turn, some buildings would have to be removed.

Ford said that all alternatives have to be considered in the context of the mission statement, which includes attention to historic preservation, esthetics, the needs of businesses and the town's rural character. He commented, "This is an amazing little town. Most people know the traffic flow and are able to get around…a change could be "just a bike path or a sidewalk."

Ford is looking for volunteers, representing a cross section of the community, to serve on a steering committee, which would take road trips to see examples of proposed changes in action, and invites residents to email, call or stop in to see him in the town hall annex.

The group would then make recommendations, seek input, and eventually apply to the state for funding or available reconstruction grants for all, none or parts of a plan that represents the desires of the community.

The Rev. Randy Dales spoke fervently several times about the need to address traffic at the golf cart crossing. "I live there," he said, "and see cars screech to a stop. Someone stops, being polite, and an inexperienced driver will come along talking on a cell phone and crash into the car in front…Holderness School once lost a student in a situation like that and they had to build an underpass."

Rondeau urged drivers to use their right of way, explaining that it is incumbent on the golfers to wait, for it's dangerous when someone stops on the highway. Other drivers are not expecting that and can't slow down fast enough.

And there was talk of a more immediate solution – lowering the speed limit.

So, Ford has the ball rolling. It is now up to interested residents to take up the challenge. He emphasized that solutions to various identified problems will be weighed by the public before any actions are taken.

Martin Lord Osman
Armen Kevorkian
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Varney Smith
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