No weight limits for New Ipswich’s River Road after public hearing
Published: 11-29-2023 10:30 AM
Modified: 12-01-2023 10:05 AM
After nearly two hours of feedback during a public hearing on Tuesday, the New Ipswich Select Board opted not to post weight limits on River Road, keeping the status quo.
River Road had a six-ton weight limit for through truck traffic from 2014 to 2021, a restriction which was lifted when the road was rebuilt and the subgrade fortified. The town was advised by the head of the Highway Department at the time that the road could then handle heavier loads.
Residents of the road had asked that the weight limit be reinstated, citing safety concerns with large trucks going down the road, speeding and damage to the road and its associated infrastructure, including the causeway that leads to the river. While some residents spoke about those concerns on Tuesday, the majority of those who attended spoke in favor of allowing truck traffic on the road, including residents who use it daily for their business.
Ben Hatcher, a resident of Greenville Road, said he uses the road often to move hay bales, and that a detour around River Road would add at least 15 minutes. He said while that is not as much of a concern for him, for someone who uses that road daily with multiple employees, those extra minutes would add up to tens of thousands of dollars in employee time.
“I don’t think that’s fair to these business owners, who’ve paid for these road to be paved, to have to go around. We have a right to use these roads,” Hatcher said.
David Coponen said eliminating truck traffic from River Road only pushes it out to other roads, all of whom might have the same concerns.
“If they don’t want big trucks on their road, I want horse and buggies on my road,” Coponen said.
Phil Thayer, of Main Street, said although the demographics of the town have changed in the last 30 to 40 years, the town still has a large base of construction businesses.
“We don’t drive these trucks to irritate the homestead people in town; we drive these trucks to make a living,” Thayer said.
Karen Hackett, a resident of River Road, said she sees both sides of the issue, but that the road is not safe for non-vehicular traffic, noting she does not allow her daughter to ride her horse on the road, and that there are places on the road edge that are crumbling.
“It is a concern,” Hackett said.
Louise Delpapa of River Road said she understood that there might be additional cost to business to detour, but there were spots on the road that were dangerous for foot traffic.
“Can we put a price on human life?” she asked. “We had a weight limit sign, there was a reason for that.”
Select Board Chair Shawn Talbot said that some the points made had merit, noting that he had taken in the concerns about speeding on the road and the board could look at solutions, including heightened enforcement and more signage or an electronic speed sign to calm traffic. However, he said the speeding issue did not convince him that there was a need to make changes to the weight allowance.
“I don’t see any reason to reinstate weight restrictions on River Road,” Talbot said.
Selectman Jason Somero said he was surprised by how many people had spoke in favor of keeping the road open to all traffic, and said, “The points made were hard to ignore,” agreeing with Talbot that he didn’t have a compelling reason to restrict truck traffic on the road.
When asked for his opinion, Selectman Lou Alvarez abstained from a vote.
With no one on the board making a motion, Talbot clarified for the crowd that the status quo would be maintained, and there would be no reinstatement of the weight limit for River Road.
Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244 or email@example.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.