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We shouldn’t wait for a tragedy to  fix intersection

In 2009, the Route 101, Route 123 intersection with Old Street Road in Peterborough was identified as one of 35 most dangerous intersections in the state. And in 2010, the N.H. Department of Transportation held a public meeting in town to present a plan that, had it been well-received, might have made the intersection safer. Instead, the site remains treacherous from all directions, and the DOT isn’t sure what the solution is.

In March, two drivers, ages 17 and 34, were transported to Monadnock Community Hospital, following a crash there. And just last week, 88-year-old Marion Kangas of New Ipswich was airlifted to UMass Medical Center in Worcester, Mass., with possible head and internal injuries, after her car collided with a tractor-trailer. Thankfully, Kangas was listed in stable condition Monday, according to a UMass Medical spokesperson. But what will happen next time a driver on one of the side roads pulls out onto Route 101, unable to see traffic coming?

Bill Oldenburg, DOT project manager for the intersection the state has identified as in need of improvement, said Tuesday that he and his colleagues have been mulling the problem of what to do about safety issues there for years. When a plan was put forward in 2010, and property owners voiced opposition to the impacts it would have, Oldenburg said a compromise plan was hatched. But the $500,000 project then didn’t qualify for Highway Safety money, which is earmarked for projects where the benefits clearly outweigh the costs, and the compromise doesn’t do that.

It’s the curvature and grade of Route 101, as well as the visibility from the side roads at the intersection, that are the main safety issues, Oldenburg noted. And he doesn’t think additional signage will help, but what would help, short of impacting property owners in a historic area, isn’t readily clear. “I don’t know what else we would do,” he said.

Another public hearing may be the next step, Oldenburg noted. Three of the four legs of the intersection fall under the state’s jurisdiction, he said, but the DOT is reluctant to move forward with safety improvements that aren’t favored by the town.

Anyone who drives through the intersection regularly is likely aware of the issues, and it’s incumbent upon us all to find a fix.

The real shame would be to wait for a tragedy to find it.

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