By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Within days of the Gilford selectmen deciding, against the advice of Director of Public Works Peter Nourse to install a speed table on the north side of the bridge leading to Governor's Island, the City Council, on the unanimous recommendation of its Public Works Committee, refused to follow suit by putting a speed table on Summit Avenue south of the bridge.
Summit Avenue runs approximately a third of a mile northward from NH Route 11B to the foot of the bridge that carries traffic to Governor's Island, then continues over the span into Gilford and crosses the island to join Edgewater Drive midway along the north shore. Parking is prohibited on both sides of the road, which is lined with just seven residential properties. A speed table is a type of wide speed bump.
Although the speed limit on Summit Avenue was reduced from 35 mph to 25 mph some years ago, residents continued to complain about speeding traffic, and last September petitioned the City Council for a stop sign at the intersection with Wentworth Cove Road. The council denied the request, but asked City Manager Scott Myers to explore the the prospect of installing a speed table to slow traffic.
In its report to Paul Moynihan, Laconia's director of Public Works, McFarland Johnson, Inc. of Concord described two alternatives, a "parabolic" speed hump approximately 12 feet long and rising to 3 inches at its center, and a flat-topped speed table with 6-foot tapered ramps on either side leading to a 10-foot flat-topped section, without recommending either. Speed humps and tables, the engineers reported, typically reduce speeds by between 20 percent and 25 percent. The estimated cost of the first option was $6,500 and of the second $7,500.
Richard Homsi of 84 Summit Ave., who originally requested the stop sign, insisted "we need to slow the traffic down," claiming that "many, many cars are doing more than 45 mph and many are over 50. It's not something being imagined. Not one person up here barking." He warned "someone is going to get killed and I don't want to see it."
The committee was not persuaded. Councilor Armand Bolduc (Ward 6), who chairs the panel, noted that Summit Avenue is in very poor condition and will likely be rebuilt in the near future.
"Why install a speed bump when it will have be torn up when the road is repaired in a couple of years?" he asked.
Councilor Brenda Baer (Ward 4) said that a traffic count of 300 vehicles per hour is the minimum required to qualify for traffic control measures, which is almost twice the volume on Summit Avenue.
"The numbers do not support it," Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) said flatly, before offering a motion not to recommend a speed table to the council and striking the item from the council's agenda.
When the committee considered Homsi's request for a stop sign earlier this year, Laconia Police Chief Chris Adams said that data collected by a traffic recorder mounted on Summit Avenue tracked more than 1,000 vehicles for two days and while a half dozen drivers were clocked at more than 50 mph, the average speed on both days was slightly below the posted limit.
Meanwhile, last week the Board of Selectmen in Gilford agreed to install a speed table on Summit Avenue on the town's side of the bridge in response to a request from the Gilford Island Association. Nourse told the board that traffic monitoring indicated that 64 percent of motorists obey the speed limit of 25 mph that applies throughout the island, and speeding is confined to a limited number of habitual offenders.