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Epping says it doesn't want liability for pedestrian signal

Union Leader Correspondent

January 10. 2014 8:01PM
The state is proposing a signal on Route 125 in Epping to help users of the rail trail cross the busy highway. (Jason Schreiber)

EPPING — The state is proposing a pedestrian signal on Route 125 to allow snowmobilers and others who use the state's rail trail to safely cross the busy highway, but there's just one hitch: The state wants the town to take ownership of the lights and maintain them.

Selectmen refused to sign the state's proposed agreement for the light at a board meeting Monday.

"I don't think the town should have any responsibility or liability with a crosswalk on a rail trail," said Board of Selectmen Chairman Tom Gauthier.

Selectmen insisted that the town shouldn't be involved in any way with a light that would be installed on a state highway for users of the state-owned Rockingham Recreational Trail.

But that's the state's policy when it comes to the installation of these signals known as "pedestrian hybrid beacons," according to Sally Gunn, senior traffic operations engineer with the state Department of Transportation's Bureau of Traffic.

State highway officials proposed the signal as part of a plan to make improvements to Route 125 that include repaving a section of highway in the area where the signal would be installed. They're also planning a section of sidewalk on Main Street and a crosswalk and pedestrian signals at the intersection of Main Street and Route 125. The crosswalk would allow people to cross over to the Epping Crossing shopping center.

According to Gunn, the state has installed a pedestrian hybrid beacon in Meredith and two more are planned for the rail trail in Goffstown.

In those cases, Gunn said the towns agreed to take ownership of the signals.

Selectman Tom Dwyer pointed out that the town doesn't maintain any other traffic signals.

Gunn said the signals are an effective way to stop traffic on a highway like Route 125, which sees a traffic volume of 27,000 vehicles a day.

Selectmen admitted that it's dangerous for snowmobiles, bicyclists and others who use the trail and have to cross the highway in an area where there are no lights.

"It is mind boggling that someone hasn't been flattened by a truck," Selectman Jim McGeough said.

State highway officials plan to discuss the project further, but at this point selectmen have no plans to accept the maintenance agreement.

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