To The Daily Sun,
I read Rosemary Landry's letter in the Dec. 30 Laconia Daily Sun with great interest. As as a member of Meredith's 3/25 Advisory Committee, I believe some clarification and additional information might be helpful. In particular, it is incorrect to say that "no one is claiming the change will positively impact traffic congestion." It might not totally solve the "problem", but it certainly will improve things. But first, let's ask:
What exactly is causing the problem?
At first, most committee members thought that the 3/25 intersection itself was the problem. However, many of us spent hours at the intersection watching traffic on heavy traffic days and also on some not-so-heavy days. We saw traffic stopped in the intersection, even when the light was green. In other words, we realized that if the traffic is blocked beyond the intersection it does not matter what we do with the intersection itself. Traffic will not flow. A bit of observation made us realize that the real problem was caused by pedestrians, cars making left turns, and cars trying to regain speed after stopping at the light.
In other words, we learned that we had to deal not just with the main intersection, but with the entire corridor as a system of interacting roads and pedestrians.
We all know that traffic signals deal with these issues very inefficiently. First, by their very nature they stop traffic. This means that traffic needs to restart and some cars (and giant logging trucks) take a long time to get restarted. They deal with left turns very inefficiently. And finally, they are terribly inefficient in dealing with pedestrians.
Roundabouts deal with all of these issues. Their goal is to keep cars moving at a steady 15-18 mph. There is minimal stopping. Vehicles can easily make left turns without blocking the entire intersection. And most importantly, they deal efficiently with pedestrians.
With a single-lane roundabout, pedestrians can cross one lane at a time with minimal impact to traffic flow. Remember that this traffic is traveling at about 15 mph, which means that often cars can let pedestrians cross that single lane with little if any delay. Contrast this with the present situation which requires two traffic officers to stop up to five lanes of traffic before a single pedestrian can even start to cross.
It is true that this will not completely solve the summer peak traffic problem. However, the three roundabout solution will improve things for residents, cars driving through town, and pedestrians. Here's how:
1. The proposed two right turn lanes onto Route 25 will largely reduce congestion which now ties up Route 3 and Main Street on summer Friday nights and Saturday mornings.
2. The proposed roundabout at Pleasant Street will reduce or eliminate congestion from left-turn traffic from Route 25 into the Hannaford shopping center. The roundabout will provide a new entrance and exit to and from the shopping center and bank.
3. Delays caused by pedestrian crossings on Route 3 will be reduced by the proposed central safety zone and single lane crosswalks at Dover Street. At Main Street and Lake Street, roundabouts will include single lane pedestrian crosswalks at every approach.
Why not just do whatever it takes to "solve" the problem completely? Early in our investigations, DOT presented a two-lane roundabout "solution" at this intersection as the way to move the most traffic through town. Nobody on the committee liked it. It would be too large to fit the character of the town. It would also require taking a lot of land — and probably a building or two. In addition, it would have the effect of preventing traffic on Main Street from easily reaching Route 25. Route 25 would have to be widened to four lanes, taking a large part of Scenic Park. Further, a two-lane roundabout would be dangerous for pedestrians having to cross two lanes at a time at the intersection.
The committee therefore concluded that the best solution available is a system of three, single-lane roundabouts. It will deal best with pedestrians, left turns and slow steady traffic flow. It offers the best possibility for improvement over the existing traffic signal.
I agree with Rosemary that we should all "do our homework". The committee certainly did. Please learn as much as you can from those of your fellow citizens who served on this committee. Remember that we spent many hours observing traffic flow and discussing alternatives. Several of us had been on a previous committee and have therefor been studying this for eight years or more. At the end, we came to a unanimous recommendation.
I am not asking anyone to blindly accept this recommendation, but I am asking everyone to take seriously the work this committee has done, to study our recommendation carefully, and to make sure you have correct information before coming to a conclusion.
Warren Clark, Member
Meredith 3/25 Advisory Committee