Stop signs ahead Amherst board votes for 4-way stop

AMHERST – Selectmen leaned toward the side of caution last week, voting to keep the four-way traffic stop at the intersection of Middle and Main streets in the Amherst Village.

Extra signs creating the four-way stop were installed during the road work this year, and the board voted 3-1 Nov. 10 to bring back the Main Street signs and make the four-way stop permanent after Police Chief Mark Reams and several residents argued in favor of them.

Because of the number of children who cross that street and the blind curve on Main Street, said Reams, the signs are needed and add to the Village’s quality of life.

Amherst patrol officers “always thought it should be four-way, because of the bend in the road and limited line of sight,” said the chief, who heads the town’s Highway Safety Committee, which recommended the sign.

The chief said he believes in general that “less is more” when it comes to signs, but this intersection needs more.

“I don’t have a child who walks in the Village, but I’ve heard from enough people who do,” he said, noting the town wants to encourage children walking through the Village.

The safety committee recommended the four-way stop and also recommended a “No right turn for trucks and buses” sign where Amherst Street heading west meets Main Street.

No real problem

Selectmen, however, voted 1-3 against that sign, saying there is no real problem, since the school bus company is aware that buses should not be making that turn.

The Nov. 10 public hearing was the third one on the signs, necessary before selectmen adopt an ordinance to make the change law.

At a hearing in October residents expressed opposing views, with several men complaining that there are already too many signs and too many places where they have to stop. Some said signs actually make roads less safe. Several people at the Nov. 10 meeting said stop signs were important for children’s safety.

“We all noticed how much safer (the Middle Street/Main Street intersection) was” with the four-way stop, said Alice Handwerk. “Amherst Village is a community center and safety needs to be the number one priority.”

Jeanne Ludt said research on four-way stops shows they can reduce accidents significantly and called the idea that signs cause accidents “mind-boggling and not intuitive at all.”

Selectmen also postponed a decision on whether to return a stop sign to the intersection of Mack Hill and Manchester roads at the Manchester Road bridge. The issue is moot, they said, until the bridge is back in use and that won’t happen until next year.

Selectmen discussed the issue of stop signs at length and agreed that some signs, such as ‘Stop sign ahead” signs may be unnecessary and will address the overall question of signs later.

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