Amherst Village residents complain about traffic woes

AMHERST – Residents of the Foundry Street area, upset about an upcoming water line replacement and road paving project, filled the Amherst selectmen’s meeting room last week to ask why their road will be disrupted for two summers.

Town officials said doing the work in seven-week segments over two summers – the water main this year and the paving work in 2015 – is the only way.

“I’ve grudgingly given up the idea that it will be done in one year,” said Department of Public Works Director Bruce Berry.

Clark School is on Foundry Street and having the work in progress while school is in session would create too many safety problems and “general chaos,” Berry said.

But residents at the April 14 selectmen’s meeting insisted both projects should be done within one year.

Doing it over two summers will be “incredibly disruptive,” said Amily Moore, of Foundry Street, who said every neighbor on her street wants the town to reconsider.

Selectman Mike Akillian called the idea of doing it in one year “wishful thinking,” because of safety issues involving the schools, and Selectman Tom Grella told them the town has looked at every alternative, including moving students out of Clark School, and none are feasible.

“Pennichuck can’t or won’t start as soon as school lets out,” said Chairman Dwight Brew, and since the water line work has to be done first, the town has limited ability to pressure Pennichuck.

If both the water line work and the paving are done at the same time, Berry said, “I could not guarantee anyone could get out of their driveway.”

The possibility of removing or covering some stop signs in the village also has some residents upset.

“People drive very fast and don’t yield to walkers,” said Moore.

Tori Burke, of Middle Street, and said the town was making cars, not people, the priority.

Slowing traffic is the goal, she said, not making roads more convenient for drivers.

The audience applauded Burke when she said, “We have an obligation to protect the uniqueness of our village.” Another speaker said Amherst should work with Mont Vernon and New Boston on ways to keep commuter traffic out of the village.

In a phone interview last week, Grella said no final decision has been made on the stop signs, and it’s possible the town will leave them as they are.

Two stop signs will be added to the Main Street/Middle Street intersection, making it a four-way stop, he said.

Later at the meeting, the board approved a contract with Continental Paving.

New water mains are being installed and roads are being repaved throughout Amherst Village and this is the year for Foundry Street. Middle Street was completed last year and Courthouse Road in 2012.

Bridge work

Another point of contention is the Manchester Road Bridge replacement, which will likely be done later this summer or next spring.

The bridge was closed to traffic in December 2012 after the state said it had no safe carrying capacity.

At the April 14 meeting, Linda Kaiser, of Manchester Road, asked selectmen how they are going to control traffic if the bridge is reopened.

“It’s really horrible when people driving in a 20 mph district kill geese and chickens when they’re going so fast they can’t slow down,” she said, though she admitted her geese and chickens shouldn’t be in the road.

With the bridge closed, “the whole village is turning into a pedestrian” area, she said, with “kids skating, on bikes, baby carriages, people are talking to each other. It’s the way it used to be.”

Akillian agreed that the village has changed since the bridge was closed, and it would be a good idea to step back and look at the overall traffic.

“I’m glad people value the ambulatory nature of the village,” he said.

The town will pay the entire cost of bridge replacement out of a $2.1 million bond voters passed a few years ago. In 2018, the state will reimburse the town for 80 percent of the cost.

Two other town bridges, the one on Horace Greeley Road just before the Bedford line, and one on New Boston Road near the Mont Vernon line, will be replaced eventually, Grella said.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at kcleveland@cabinet.com or 673-3100, ext. 304.