CHESTERFIELD, N.H. >> The New Hampshire Department of Transportation is getting rid of some rumble strips installed on Route 9, but only after getting an earful from unhappy residents living along or near the road.
"Our job is to make sure people get home safely at night," DOT Bureau of Highway Design Chief Ron Grandmaison said Monday at a forum on the rumble strips at Chesterfield Town Hall. "We have heard you. We are making adjustments."
He said rumble strips directly across from Route 9A, near Howard's Leather Store, by the Big Deal Irving gas station in Spofford and close to Spofford Boat Sales will be removed. Also addressed will be strips where vehicles turn to access Mill Road, Bovine Boulevard, Locust Lane and Meadowview Road.
An area where the lane width is 9' 6" was "totally unacceptable" for the strips, said Grandmaison. The lane width should be 12 feet.
It is unclear when residents can expect for the removal of rumble strips to begin.
"For the state, we have to go through contractual obligations. We have to get a contractor on board that's willing to do the job, that's available to do the job. We are in August," Grandmaison said. "We are working through that now."
A feeling that notification was lacking was shared by several other attendees at the forum.
"I didn't even know they were installed until I heard this horrible noise at night," Gary Davis, of Spofford, told the Reformer. "They just got put in with no debate."
A petition circling around Town Hall stated, "We, the undersigned, believe that the new rumble strip noise generated on Route 9 in Spofford, N.H., should be reduced."
According to the DOT, rumble strips in the center of roads nationally have reduced head-on collisions and fatal crashes by 44 percent. Side strips have cut down on 36 percent of the crashes resulting in going off the road. A review of the Route 202 and Route 9 corridor in Henniker and Hopkinton in New Hampshire between 2004 and 2007 before center-line rumble strips were installed, and then a study afterward, showed that total crashes had decreased by 33.16 percent from 2009 to 2013 while injuries and fatal crashes were reduced by 46 percent.
Davis, who lives near Howard's Leather Store on Route 9, said data from the DOT was "outdated" or "cherry-picked." He worried about how the rumble strip "often chews up the tire and rim" when there's a flat, creating a "higher danger rate."
"Because it yanks the car around more," he said. "I usually don't hear cars, but the trucks — two 18-wheelers coming at each other — are going to the side because it's too narrow."
The noise from the strips, he said, is "a very low, growling sound, which echoes all over the place."
While Davis could see the benefit of rumble strips on a multi-lane highway, he said the section of Route 9 near his house is no place for them. The middle strips might even have a purpose but not the ones on the side, he added.
Bob Lester, of Spofford, said the side strips were the ones getting hit most of the time. His family came home from a vacation to discover the sound.
"We wondered, 'what is that?'" Lester said. "We watch TV on that side of the house. Now we have to keep the window shut."
Lester was one of more than 70 people who contacted the DOT about the noise. He lives across from the Chesterfield Gorge State Wayside. He said trucks and cars cannot avoid hitting strips on the side when other vehicles are turning to the wayside. By the time vehicles hit the strips, he said, "It's too late. It's not going to keep them from going off the road."
"I was hoping for a standing-room only crowd and we got one," Lester said in approval of the attendance estimated to be at about 200 people.
DOT Assistant Commissioner and Chief Engineer Bill Cass said the strips were put in around the state as a way to prevent fatal or very bad accidents, but feedback on areas too narrow or loud led to assessments and adjustments will be made.
On whether noise or vibration is intended to alert drivers who are "drowsy" and "inattentive," Grandmaison said, "It's both."
Chesterfield Inn owner Phil Hueber said he has asked the department to come spend an hour at the front desk to see the impact of the noise on his guests. He has owned the inn for 29 years.
"I'm losing business. It's a real issue in this economy," said Hueber.
Other attendees worried their property values would be going down as a result of the additional noise.
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.