New Hampshire might eliminate Rte. 9 passing lane

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CHESTERFIELD, N.H. — The town's Board of Selectmen is asking the state to eliminate a passing lane on Route 9 just west of its intersection with Route 63. The board is also asking the New Hampshire Department of Transportation to install "No Parking" signs at Big Deal, a convenience store, pizza shop and gas station on Route 9.

"Our police department has a strong opinion that the [eastbound passing] lane as it is, is a contributor to the mutually agreed upon problems at the intersection of Route 9 and Route 63," wrote Chairman Jon McKeon in a letter to William Lambert, a traffic engineer at N.H. DOT.

McKeon noted that the state plans to install "an advanced intersection warning system" to minimize collisions at the intersection. The warning system consists of flashing signs on Route 9 to let drivers know that cars are waiting on Route 63 to enter or cross the state highway. However, wrote McKeon, the eastbound passing lane causes problems on its own, with vehicles speeding to the top.

"We see that the present use is for faster vehicle speeds and a race to the top," wrote McKeon. "This race sometimes carries all the way over the hill and down the descending side towards the intersection of Route 63."

The town doesn't believe that particular passing lane is needed anymore, he wrote. "Today, the trucks that did need a slower lane no longer have any difficulty in ascending the incline."

Eliminating the passing lane will end the race to get to the top of the hill, contends McKeon, and therefore make the intersection safer.

If the passing lane is eliminated, noted McKeon, the town would like to see a left-turn lane added for eastbound travelers to gain access to Friedsam Drive and Pinnacle Springs Road.

New Hampshire plans to pave Route 9 from the Connecticut River to Friedsam Drive in the fall, noted McKeon. During the painting of lanes, the passing lane could be painted out and a left-turn lane could be painted in, he wrote.

"I think all parties are in agreement that it would help improve the safety of the traveling public," McKeon wrote in an email to the Reformer.

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Adding no parking zones to 600 feet of roadway in front of Big Deal would also make travel safer, wrote McKeon. Trucks that park in the breakdown lanes on either side of the road at Big Deal create a hazard, he wrote, because that practice limits visibility.

Big Deal has three access points. McKeon said the town would like to see the middle access point eliminated. The town would also like to see a center turn lane added for access to Big Deal, which would mean eliminating the breakdown lanes in that stretch of road.

Lambert told the Reformer the request from the Board of Selectmen is not unreasonable, especially the installation of no parking signs at Big Deal.

"New Hampshire DOT supports the installation of no parking signs along state highways, if the town asking for them is willing to enforce it," said Lambert.

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He said most often, no parking signs are put up on state highways to prevent hazardous conditions, which include blocking sight lines.

Paul Saba, owner of Big Deal, said while he has not yet had a discussion with representatives from DOT, he is open to suggestions that will make this section of Route 9 safer for his customers and drivers.

"It's not about Big Deal," he said. "It's about safety for the whole town."

He said if he can make the east and west entrances to his business larger, closing the center entrance might be possible. He also said he is all for more no parking signs along the road in front of his business, which he has owned since 2008.

Removing the breakdown lanes in front of his business and painting in a center-turn lane is also an option he would support, said Saba.

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But, he said, no amount of work on the road or additional no parking signs is going to solve the root of the problem.

"The problem is drivers aren't paying attention," said Saba.

Lambert said the state is open to the possibility of removing the passing lane just west of Route 63.

"We have been eliminating passing lanes more often in recent years," he said. "Especially shorter passing lanes. The way trucks are geared nowadays, they don't really need them."

Lambert said installing a left-turn lane for drivers turning on to Friedsam Drive and Pinnacle Springs Road could also be a possibility.

"We'll have to do an evaluation of the length of grade to make sure it's not problematic for trucks," he said. "We also take a look at crashes and traffic volumes."

Lambert noted this probably wouldn't entail a lot of study, because this stretch of road has been reviewed a number of times. He said the town's request is currently under discussion at DOT and he expects the state will respond shortly.

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or raudette@reformer.com.


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