Signs, signs . . . everywhere a sign: Meredith residents say 10 new ones on a mile-long, dead-end street is way too many
Published DateMEREDITH — From Meredith Center Road, Windsong Place snakes left and right, uphill and down eastward through woods and past marshes for about a mile just north of Pickerel Pond before ending in a cul-de-sac not far from the Laconia city line. The road serves some 30 residences, including those strung along Serenity Lane and Sleepy Hollow Road, many of them standing cheek by jowl with a wildlife management area.
Near the junction with Meredith Center a sign warns of children at play and posts a speed limit of 25 mph. Along with four chevron-shaped arrows warning of one especially sharp curve, it is the only traffic sign on the road.
But, much to the consternation of residents, plans are afoot to add another 10 signs to the mix.
"It's significant overkill," Jim Lerner told the selectmen at their meeting yesterday, describing the prospect as "visual pollution" more likely to distract motorists than forestall accidents. He said that residents as well as visitors regularly walk the road while various wild creatures frequently cross it.
Windsong Place is one of any number of roads in town where signs are slated to be replaced, removed, retained and, most controversially, added following the decision of the Board of Selectmen in 2011 to participate in the Rural Signing and Delineation program, funded by the federal government and administered by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT).
When officials of the DOT first presented the plan, which runs to nearly 30 pages and includes many roads in town, to the Selectboard in July 2011 selectman Herb Vadney, a resident of Sleepy Hollow Road, expressed misgivings about the excessive signage proposed for Windsong Place. Soon afterwards Lerner asked town manager Phil Warren "why do we need to decorate the road with a bazillion signs in less than then one mile" and suggested "how about just one of those squiggly line signs at the start of the road?"
Lerner said that more than a year passed without incident until earlier this month he noticed markings along the edge of the roadway indicating where the signs would be placed and rallied his neighbors to attend the Selectboard meeting.
The plan calls for two striped signs on either side of Windsong Place near the junction with Meredith Center Road. The existing sign, warning of children and setting the 25 mph. limit, along with chevrons at the curve would remain. In addition, four pairs of signs marking bends in the road and slowing speed to 20 mph. would be placed along the length of the road.
Dan Heyduk told the selectmen that he has walked or run on the road everyday for the past seven years — "rain or shine" — and never witnessed anything approaching a motor vehicle accident. Lerner said that Police Chief Kevin Morrow informed him tree have been no reported accidents on the road during the past three years.
"I was looking to live in a rural area in a rural town," Said Bob Gage, who added he had invested significantly in landscaping his property and one of the signs would be put in his garden. He recalled one car that left the road on black ice and two minor mishaps, doubting any would have been prevented by more signage.
After reading a letter from Marty and Alvina Heine who called the proposal "an unnecessary and stupid waste of money,' Vadney, who said he has lived off Windsong Road for 20 years, pointed out that DOT plans to place signs close to where a snowmobile trail crosses the road and suggested trimming trees would have a greater impact on visibility and safety.
Warren explained that although "in its purest form" the program was "all or nothing," meaning funding hinged on following the plan to the letter, he believed adjustments could be made, including removing signs once they were installed. He said the signs would be retro-reflective, in compliance with federal and state standards, and placed primarily according to the "geometry of the street" as well as speed limits and accident histories.
"If it's all or nothing," said Don MacFarland, "I'm speaking in favor of nothing."
Selectman Lou Kahn, who lives on Arbutus Hill Road, said there is only one "pavement ends" sign one the road, because the engineer did not travel far enough to see that the pavement begins and ends once again. "I also have a tractor and a chain," he remarked.