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Selectmen seek traffic study to slow Turnpike speed

NEW IPSWICH — Select Board members and police agreed during a board meeting Tuesday that the speed on Turnpike Road leading into Greenville is just too high for a stretch of road that includes two schools.

During the Select Board’s meeting Tuesday, resident Nikolai Brovin, the owner of Nix Gym on Turnpike Road, approached the board about the speed in the area. He said he became concerned after an accident in front of his gym earlier this year. He also said that students coming from Mascenic Regional High School to use his business often had trouble crossing the road because of the high speed of oncoming traffic.

The speed limit for the stretch of Turnpike Road that passes both Highbridge Hill Elementary and Mascenic Regional High School is currently set at 45 miles per hour.

At the meeting, Police Chief Tim Carpenter said speed is an issue, but because Turnpike Road is a state highway, the decision whether to lower the speed limit in that area would fall on the N.H. Department of Transportation, not on the town.

“I don’t understand how it’s 45 miles per hour in that zone now,” said Select Board member Mike Conlin. “It’s a school zone.”

Select Board member Ben Cargill pointed out that when the stretch of road only included the high school, there was an expectation that most of the students would be driving to and from school, and there was not a expected high amount of foot traffic. The school is also set far back from the road, Cargill said.

Carpenter said that when the elementary school was built in 2011, the state had not conducted a traffic study prior to construction. That would be the first step in demonstrating a need for a lower limit in the area, he said, and if the Select Board was interested in pursuing changing the speed limit, the process would have to begin there.

Carpenter recommended contacting the Department of Transportation and requesting a traffic study for the section of Turnpike Road from the Greenville Falls building to the Greenville town line, counting traffic in both directions. Once those numbers were obtained, the town could approach the Department of Transportation to determine if the speed limit needed to be lowered.

“Would you be in favor of pursuing this?” Cargill asked Carpenter.

“Absolutely,” Carpenter replied. “There’s no reason not to.”

Carpenter added that one of the reasons a speed limit in a certain area will be lowered is if there are a higher-than-usual number of accidents in that stretch of road. That is not the case for Turnpike Road near the schools, he said.

“In that area, in the 10 years that I’ve been here, I can count the number of accidents on one hand,” he said. And most of those were weather related, Carpenter said, not related to speeding.

The board agreed to draft a letter to the Department of Transportation, with Carpenter’s assistance, to ask that a traffic study in the area be conducted, with the hopes that the speed limit could be lowered.

Brovin also inquired about the possibility of putting in a crosswalk in the area of the schools, to accommodate students crossing the road to his business.

Carpenter said he would not be in favor of putting in a crosswalk on that section of road, as extended visibility is poor in the area.

“With the line of sight in that area, it’s a recipe for disaster,” he said about putting in a crosswalk.

The Select Board will meet next on Tuesday in the town offices at 6:30 p.m.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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