Does Amherst need more stop signs?

AMHERST – Plans to install new stop signs in the Amherst Village brought sharply divided opinions to the selectmen’s public hearing last week.

The town’s Traffic Safety Committee has proposed a four-way stop at the intersection of Main and Middle streets, and the restoration of stop signs for Manchester Road, eastbound at Mack Hill Road, to be installed after the bridge is repaired.

Also proposed is a “Trucks/buses no right turn” sign at the intersection of Amherst and Main streets, heading west toward Milford.

The intersection of Main and Middle streets now has temporary stop signs at Middle Street, during the road work, and the proposal is to keep them and add signs at Main, making it a four-way stop.

Several mothers of young children told town officials at the Oct. 27 hearing that stop signs are important for pedestrian safety.

And several men spoke out against what one called a “proliferation of signs.”

Jay Dinkel said there are already 56 stop signs in the Village and selectmen should wait and make traffic control part of the Village strategic planning process.

“I support any way to slow people in the Village,” he said, but the proposed stop signs are not necessary.

Chris Buchanan read from a book about traffic that he said backs up his belief that stop signs make roads less efficient, “make the town look bad” and create danger, he said, because people don’t know whether to trust other drivers to stop.

Buchanan said he put a video camera at the four-way stop near Moulton’s Market for three hours one day, and the compliance was “pathetic” – only 12 percent of the drivers obeyed the signs.

Andy Ouellette called the Village stop signs a great inconvenience and a form of pollution that only aggravates people, while Kirsten Quinn said appearance is not a valid reason “when it comes to people’s safety.”

Another woman said decisions about the signs should take into account how many people are on cell phones “while whipping through the Village.”

There will be a second public hearing on Nov. 10, and board Chairman Dwight Brew, and Police Chief Mark Reams, who heads the town’s Traffic Safety Committee, will provide background on why the committee recommends the signs.

After the hearing the board will likely take a vote on the Middle Street and Amherst street signs.

Selectman Tom Grella, a committee member, said later he would also like a third stop sign on the Manchester Road bridge, so that everyone approaching the bridge has to stop. Decisions about the bridge signs will probably wait, he said, because the bridge won’t be replaced until next year.

Two years ago the bridge was closed to traffic after the state said it had no safe carrying capacity.

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