Rindge board agrees to traffic island on Forristall Rd.

RINDGE — Despite concerns about town maintenance of a raised traffic island planned for Forristall Road, the Select Board unanimously approved the proposal presented by the N.H. Department of Transportation on Wednesday night, reversing an earlier request to nix the traffic island.

The DOT is slated to reconfigure the intersection where Route 202, Middle Winchendon Road and Forristall Road merge this summer in an effort to reduce the number of injury-related car crashes that occur there. And state officials say the raised traffic island on Forristall Road is a necessary component of the intersection improvement plan, if it is to improve drivers’ safety.

Between January 2008 and November 2012, Rindge police have responded to 15 significant crashes at the four-way intersection, according to Rindge Police Chief Frank Morrill.

The DOT presented its approximately $300,000 intersection improvement plan — which will be paid for with state and federal aid — to the town on a handful of occasions in 2012. Although the Select Board unanimously backed the DOT’s project proposal at a board meeting in November, it did so with the condition that the state would forego its plans for a raised traffic island on Forristall Road.

But at the Select Board’s meeting on Wednesday, DOT Project Manager William Oldenburg said the state has looked into the matter further and believes a raised traffic island on Forristall Road is necessary. Oldenburg said traffic studies at similar intersections in the Midwest have shown that the safety benefit of the proposed plans would be lost if there is no traffic island to guide drivers.

“If you don’t put in this island, the cars won’t pull up to the stop bar [on Forristall Road],” Oldenburg said, where it’s been determined drivers would be in the best position to see traffic on Route 202.

In addition to the raised traffic island, the DOT plans to construct a painted traffic island, which will include a rumble strip, between the travel lane and right-turn lane on Route 202 that is six feet at its widest point and tapers going north. The DOT has also proposed widening the right turn lane on Route 202 South to allow drivers exiting Forristall Road greater visibility when they pull out onto the busy state highway.

Oldenburg said there is no intersection in the state of New Hampshire that resembles that of Route 202 and Forristall Road, which is why the state looked to the Midwest to see how other states have addressed the problem of the blind spot created by the right turn lane.

Rindge’s Department of Public Works Director Mike Cloutier said at the meeting Wednesday that raised traffic islands can be a maintenance nightmare for towns, in part because they make the road difficult to plow in the wintertime. But if adding the raised traffic island on Forristall Road is truly going to enhance drivers’ safety, Cloutier said he supports it.

Oldenburg said large trucks accidently driving over the curbed concrete that forms the raised traffic island is a common concern, but because Forristall Road isn’t a truck route hopefully that will be a non-issue in Rindge.

Select Board member Roberta Oeser said she’s not convinced people would be fearful of pulling all the way up to the stop sign at the end of Forristall Road, if there is no raised traffic island there to guide them . Before attending Wednesday’s meeting, Oeser said she watched drivers, who either pulled past the stop line there now or didn’t stop at all.

Nonetheless, she and the board gave the DOT the go-ahead to bid the project to contractors in late April.

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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