November 12. 2013 12:31AM

Traffic an issue for those who would walk on the Windham rail trail

WINDHAM — As more and more outdoor enthusiasts take advantage of the town's rail trail, local safety officials said they're increasingly concerned over the lack of adequate parking.

During a recent meeting of the Windham Board of Selectmen, Police Chief Gerald Lewis and Fire Chief Thomas McPherson said cars are regularly parked on both sides of Roulston Road and speeding cars on both Roulston and Depot roads present a constant safety hazard as trail users cross the busy streets.

Built on the former Manchester-Lawrence railway corridor, the Windham Rail Trail is part of the burgeoning 150-mile Granite State Rail Trail that, once completed, will stretch from Salem to Lebanon.

McPherson and Lewis are hoping to work with the state's Rail Trail Alliance, along with the town's highway department, to find a solution to the town's parking problem.

"From everyone's perspective, the rail trail has been a tremendous addition to this community. I enjoy it myself," Lewis said. "It's used by residents quite a bit, and we're seeing more and more people coming in to use it from other communities."

But the increase in the number of pedestrians has proven a constant concern, the chief noted, particularly on Roulston Road, where the trail crosses over the street.

"We have next to no parking there, and people are now parking on both sides of the road," Lewis said. "They're getting out of their cars with their bikes, their roller blades, kids and strollers. It's pretty hazardous right now."

As the Derry segment of the trail continues to expand, Windham safety officials are also seeing more cars parked along North Lowell Road.

"There's also a huge speeding problem on Depot Road, where the road passes through and over the trail crossing," Lewis said.

Jack McCartney, Windham's highway agent, recently installed an elevated platform in the Depot Road area in hopes of slowing down traffic, with new lines painted in the road for pedestrian crossing.

Police also patrol the area regularly.

"Though I can't say this works all the time," Lewis said. "Cars are still flying through there. These are the issues we face with a leisure activity that's become very popular."

"I think we're all aware of the situation," Town Administrator David Anderson said.

Several years ago, the town approached the state Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) in hopes of building a parking area on state-owned land near the former Canobie Supermarket on Route 28 near the Salem town line.

Lewis said the state had initially been receptive to the idea, though so far "nothing has happened yet."

"I think we've explored every possibility," the police chief said. "And I certainly don't want to post for 'no parking' on those roads, as this doesn't really solve the problem."

Anderson said he'd continue to work with the state in hopes of expediting the process of creating some additional parking spaces.

He said it would cost the town approximately $10,000 to gravel and pave the Route 28 site.