Amherst board may study village traffic

AMHERST – Selectmen are facing sharp criticism from homeowners who live near the Manchester Road bridge, which is on the verge of a reconstruction project that would reopen it to traffic.

At the Amherst board’s May 27 meeting, Linda Kaiser, whose property is adjacent the bridge, said she would block the plans and insisted the board first look at overall village traffic.

The bridge was closed in December 2012 after the state said it has no safe carrying capacity. At last week’s meeting, board Chairman Dwight Brew said the town plans to put together a bid package soon.

Kaiser spoke at length about her unhappiness with reopening the bridge before there is any discussion of traffic signs, speed bumps or other traffic-slowing devices.

“I am not going to sit there and have traffic speeding past my house all day long. It is not going to happen,” she said.

Selectman Mike Akillian agreed, saying some of her questions are valid. Then he proposed a comprehensive plan for the entire town center, “so we don’t keep taking (traffic problems) in isolation … a micro-master plan for the village” that would consider such things as trucks, speed and traffic patterns.

“We are in danger of dealing with this incrementally rather than holistically,” he said.

Brian Handwerk, whose house is next to Town Hall and just off the bridge, called Akillian’s proposal “music to my ears.”

“It’s not about the people who live in the village,” he said, “it’s about the whole town” and everyone who comes to the village. “I’d love to see this conversation take place before we speed up the bridge project.”

In 2011, voters approved a warrant article for more than $2 million in case one of the town’s three red-listed bridges have to be closed. The idea is that the state would eventually reimburse the town for much of the cost, but Kaiser said she looked at state documents that say towns will be reimbursed if the money is available.

The town has to put up more than $1 million and pay interest charges, Kaiser said “to satisfy a couple of people on Jones Road who don’t like the extra traffic going past their house. Well, that’s nuts,” referring to the road that is cut off from the village by the bridge closure.

Selectmen noted that an overwhelming majority of voters approved the bridge money.

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