August 28. 2013 12:30AM

Plaistow walks the walk on pedestrian safety for school children

Union Leader Correspondent

PLAISTOW — A survey of Plaistow students and parents completed earlier this year shows that many students choose not to walk to school because of traffic on Main Street.

Town officials state that the study is indicative of persistent pedestrian safety issues on Main Street and are hoping a state grant could help the town address some of those issues.

"We applied for a Safe Routes to School grant this July," said Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald. He said the town could hear if it has received the grant within the next several weeks.

"It's pretty much the universal consensus that traffic on Main Street is heavy, there's a lot of it, and it's moving fast," said Robert Gray, chairman of the Board of Selectmen.

The board also approved an additional $100,000 in matching funds for the grant."If it is approved, the town will have over $300,000 to apply to pedestrian safety," said Fitzgerald. "I think that can do a lot to help with pedestrian safety, but it will just be the beginning of the investment as we move forward."

Pedestrian safety has been an area the town has been looking to address for several years.

"We've conducted a number of initiatives and studies over the past few years," said Fitzgerald. He said a $50,000 grant from Plan New Hampshire gave the town the ability to bring in architects to draw up an initial design for pedestrian safety measures.

Through the Rockingham Planning Commission, the town also did a comprehensive study of the entire Plaistow village corridor, looking at preliminary designs for public safety.

"It was focused on pedestrian safety and has the empirical data to help us make intelligent decisions and also to help us support some of our grant applications," said Fitzgerald.

The town has implemented some public safety measures over the past several years, including the installation of radar and speedometers along Main Street.

"We've also really picked up our enforcement," said Fitzgerald. "The police are out there vigilantly. Enforcement is a big part of the solution to some of these problems, but we also need some infrastructure improvements."

One potential for improved safety would be to install raised, granite-curbed sidewalks along Main Street, according to Fitzgerald.

"That's a really big safety feature in terms of sidewalks," he said. "We want to look at raising the sidewalk profiles along Main Street and reconfiguring the intersection with Elm Street."Planning Board member Tim Moore said he would like to see the town prioritize Main Street traffic-calming projects over the next several months.

"The problem is only going to get worse and worse unless we do something," said Moore. "The towns to our north are growing, and to get there, you have to drive through Plaistow one way or another. It's an important issue we need to tackle or at least get the plans in place to tackle it."