State audit offers Derry road speed suggestions

Much of the North Village’s per-day traffic is generated by businesses on the south side of Route 100, including Jelley’s Deli and Liquor Store, the Maple Leaf Diner, Mike and Tammy’s Market and Deli, the Vermont Butcher Shop and the Gulf gas station. Photo by Cherise Madigan.

By Cherise Madigan
©2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

A recently completed Road Safety Audit from the Vermont Agency of Transportation has provided new data and recommendations regarding traffic speeds along Route 11 and into the North Village of Londonderry.

According to Select Board Chair George Mora, traffic speeds and safety present an “ongoing problem” with residents consistently asking for action to be taken on the issue. On the Londonderry Community Forum, the issue is a frequent topic of conversation.

The audit, completed on Sept. 22 and discussed by the board at its Monday, Nov. 16 meeting, was requested by the town as an initial step in addressing a number of issues, including:

  • Excessive speed through the village
  • Potential dangers at the intersection of Routes 11 and 100 near the shopping plaza and Stowell Hill Road
  • Limited visibility at the intersection of Route 11 and Edgehill Road, near Middletown Road
  • Pedestrians and cyclists sharing the road with traffic, especially in the North Village and during the West Rivers Farmers Market, as well as a lack of safe pedestrian crossings and sidewalks

Data on traffic and collisions 

The agency reported data on daily traffic volumes in various locations around the village, ranging from 2,400 vehicles per day to 4,200. It found that much of that traffic is generated by businesses on the south side of Route 100, including Jelley’s Deli and Liquor Store, the Maple Leaf Diner, Mike and Tammy’s Market and Deli, the Vermont Butcher Shop, and the Gulf gas station. Seasonally, the farmers market is also a major generator of pedestrian traffic in the North Village.

Along Route 100, the Londonderry Village Market plaza is the major traffic generator. The intersection of Routes 11 and 100 near the plaza is described as a “high crash location” with 21 accidents at that location between 2015 and 2019. In 2020, there have been three recorded crashes there to date.

Planning Commission Chair Sharon Crossman helped with the state audit.

Where the shopping plaza meets Routes 11 and 100, six crashes were reported between 2015 and 2019 with two occurring within the triangular intersection, with “distracted and aggressive driving” cited as the cause. Other crashes at this location consisted of “angle crashes” caused by slippery road conditions or views obstructed by traffic, among others. Most accidents here occurred between 3:30 and 4:30 p.m., when traffic at the plaza is busiest.

Vehicles emerging from businesses in the North Village also caused a number of accidents in that time frame. Five crashes occurred between the Gulf Station and the Maple Leaf Diner, some involving broadside crashes with vehicles emerging from the gas station. Two similar crashes occurred outside of Mike and Tammy’s Market and Deli.

Two crashes occurred at the intersection with Edge Hill and Middletown roads, both broadside crashes involving a vehicle turning left out of Edge Hill. In one case, a mound of snow was obstructing the driver’s view of traffic.

Safety concerns and suggestions

Four safety concerns with corresponding suggestions are detailed in the audit:

  1. Perceived danger at the intersection of Route 11 with Edge Hill Road and Middletown Road
  2. Confusion and potential danger at the intersection of Routes 11 and 100 near Stowell Hill Road and the shopping plaza
  3. Potential speeding through the village, especially by “large trucks”
  4. Vehicles pulling into traffic from undefined access points in the North Village
  5. The lack of walking amenities for pedestrians

At Edge Hill, the Agency of Transportation affirmed that the visibility to the left (when attempting to turn onto Route 11) is limited due to bridge railings. Local representatives who helped with the audit — including Planning Commission Chair Sharon Crossman, Board Chair George Mora and Town Administrator Shane O’Keefe — also inferred that wider access to Middletown Road encouraged turning vehicles to maintain high speeds.

New pavement markings at this intersection, begun this fall as part of the Route 11 paving project, may improve safety at this intersection. The agency recommended that town officials monitor and evaluate the impact of these markings, and suggested that in the meantime they compile comments from citizens.

Select Board Chair George Mora said high speeds continue to present a problem around town.

The intersection of Routes 11 and 100 near the plaza does present visibility issues, according to the audit, forcing drivers approaching Route 11 from the south end of Route 100 to “turn their heads significantly” to see eastbound traffic. Still, the costs of installing a roundabout at that location — estimated to be $3 million — outweigh the benefits, the audit said. A new yield sign facing westbound traffic was suggested, which could be added in the second phase of the paving project. Also recommended was a scoping study to design an alternative for the intersection.

Regarding high speeds — an issue that has prompted the placement of a number of yard signs reading “drive like your kids live here” in recent months — the agency reported that “the extent of the problem cannot be fully assessed” due to a lack of speed data, the collection of which was impeded by the paving project. Erecting “reduce speed ahead” signs was suggested, as was a speed study. Depending on the results of the study, speed limit enforcement campaigns could be pursued as well as a speed cart or a moveable speed radar sign.

Vehicles pulling out of businesses in the North Village do face limited sightlines due to the curve of the road and parked vehicles, and the audit articulated a need for “access management” from Jelley’s to the Gulf Station, as well as the area around the Maple Leaf Diner and Mike and Tammy’s. The recommendation for this concern is related to the lack of space for pedestrians and cyclists, for which the AOT suggested a scoping study. Such a study would provide potential safety improvements for both pedestrians and emerging vehicles. The town could apply for grants from VTrans for both the study and resulting construction.

Londonderry’s next steps

New radar speed signs were the most discussed option at Monday’s Select Board meeting, and Crossman said that the Project Londonderry initiative would be willing to fundraise for their installation — which O’Keefe estimated to be about $4,000 each. Those signs would ideally impact traffic speeds while also providing the town with the traffic data that the agency was lacking.

Two potential locations for speed signs were discussed:

  1. in the South Village, just before Route 100 meets Middletown Road and Main Street, near the Heritage Family Credit Union, and
  2. westward on Route 11 (coming from Flood Brook School or Landgrove, for example) just before the shopping plaza. The potential for more speed signs, or moveable speed carts, was also discussed though no final plans were made.

Mora explained that the town had been working to add a line speed signs in the coming budget, which will be voted on at Town Meeting in March. The Windham Regional Commission may also be able to help coordinate speed studies, she said.

Ultimately, the board agreed to explore potential funding — including private donations and contributions collected by Project Londonderry — and requested that O’Keefe discuss options and a timeline for speed studies with the Agency of Transportation. Such studies could allow the town to reduce speed limits in some areas, but would not be required for the placement of additional speed or radar signs, according to O’Keefe.

Crossman added that the reduction of speed limits in the North and South villages to 25 mph has been discussed by Project Londonderry working groups and has garnered support within the initiative, though it’s unclear whether such a reduction would be permitted on a state highway. Further discussion will continue, Mora said, once all board members are able to review the study in-depth.

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About the Author: Journalist and photographer Cherise Madigan specializes in writing about outdoor recreation, the environment and travel. She has roots in Manchester and a history of reporting throughout Southern Vermont. Madigan is a graduate of Nazareth College of Rochester, earning her degree in Political Science summa cum laude in 2015.

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