CHESTERFIELD, N.H. -- The town's Board of Selectmen voted unanimously last month to ask the N.H. Department of Transportation to conduct a road safety audit of the intersection of Routes 9 and 63 following years of accidents.
According to the official minutes of the meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 7, Selectman Elaine Levlocke made a motion to apply for and ask the Southwest Region Planning Commission to process the application for the audit. Jim Larkin seconded it.
JB Mack, the principal planner of SWRPC, told the Reformer the planning commission is now gathering data -- such as turning patterns, speed volume and the types of vehicles that utilize the intersection -- and an application will likely be sent to Concord within the next two weeks.
He said the hope is for Chesterfield to receive money from the state Highway Safety Improvement Program to fund the audit, which would examine crash patterns and interview people familiar with the site.
Mack said he first suggested an audit to Town Administrator Rick Carrier.
Chesterfield Police Chief Lester Fairbanks said that intersection is notorious for accidents.
"Historically, that's always been our No. 1 intersection for injury accidents," he said. "Any way you cut it, it is a dangerous interaction."
Fairbanks, who has been the police chief for about 12 years, said the state reduced the risk by taking out a passing lane six or seven years ago and redoing Route 9. He said part of the danger is that vehicles travel down the road at roughly 90 feet per second because they are unaware of the change in the speed limit near the intersection -- or simply ignore it -- and maintain at the high rate of speed. The chief said his department occasionally monitors the traffic there but believes "it's a losing battle considering the out-of-state flavor of Route 9."
He explained that locals tend to be more cautious at the intersection because they or someone they know may have gotten a speeding ticket there. But people traveling through are clueless as to how dangerous the intersection can be. He said there are oversized stop signs there to try to get the attention of drivers.
The spot has been the site of numerous crashes over the years, including one that killed a 92-year-old man on Thursday, June 27.
Installation of a rotary has come up as a way to alleviate the problem but Fairbanks said he doesn't think that will help because roughly 16,000 vehicles travel on Route 9 every day.
According to the minutes of the Aug. 7 meeting, a flashing yellow light on Route 9 and a flashing red one on Route 63 was suggested as a solution. Mack reportedly told Carrier that a stop light would only make the situation more dangerous.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.