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January 27. 2014 10:01PM

Nashua officials hoping grant could help allay pedestrian safety concerns

NASHUA — City officials are hoping to improve safety for students and motorists walking and traveling in the area of Charlotte Avenue Elementary School, a problem that has prompted concern from parents in recent months.

The city has been awarded a $100,000 federal grant to make adjustments to the pedestrian infrastructure around the school. The grant that will be reviewed by the Board of Aldermen tonight.

“There are some people who have concerns about safety in the area, so we started talking with parents about a year-and-a-half ago,” Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said on Monday. “People are driving at high rates of speed, the crosswalks are not in ideal locations, there are unfinished sidewalks and an unusual entrance.”

Lozeau is hopeful the grant will be able to fix some of the problems, which she admits could take some time.

“This is just the first step of probably a long process,” said Lozeau.

Aldermen will be presented with a proposed resolution tonight, asking that the city authorize and accept the $100,000 grant from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation as part of its final round of funding for the Safe Routes to School initiative.

The funding could help to install flashing lights in the area, speed indicators and possibly a new crosswalk and sidewalk, according to Lozeau, explaining that one of the crosswalks leads to an area without a sidewalk.

“That is not acceptable,” she said.

Alderman-at-Large Diane Sheehan agreed, saying more needs to be done to help improve the safety of children who attend Charlotte Avenue Elementary School.

“Traffic calming measures need to take place in order to remind people that this is a school zone. We need some massive safety improvements there,” said Sheehan.

Charlotte Avenue is often used as a cut-through street, and motorists are often seen traveling way too fast for a school zone, according to Sheehan.

“People are whipping through there, and it is dangerous. In certain areas there is zero visibility because of the corner alignment and the way people are parking,” she said. “People just aren’t cooperating.”

Sheehan is hopeful the grant will provide funding to install raised speed tables on Charlotte Avenue and possibly a way to amend certain curb cuts while also eliminating parking in front of the nearby ballpark.

The grant being awarded to Nashua is one of the last in the state for the SRTS program.

“With the awarding of the state’s balance, NHDOT begins the transition away from SRTS as a stand-alone program,” says the New Hampshire Department of Transportation website, adding other federal funding from a new Transportation Alternative Program may still be available.Grants will be awarded to numerous communities in the sixth and final round of the state’s SRTS project.

“A total of more than $1,930,000 will be used to reimburse programs in 11 communities: Bristol, Claremont, Colebrook, Henniker, Hopkinton, Keene, Lebanon, Nashua, Pembroke, Plaistow and Portsmouth,” says a posting on the site.

Most of the improvements include sidewalks, bicycle lanes and signage. Since 2005, New Hampshire has received more than $8 million in SRTS funding to help numerous towns and cities rebuild their pedestrian infrastructure.

According to the SRTS website, the number of American children who frequently walk to school has declined drastically over the past four decades. In 1969, about 48 percent of students ages 5 to 14 either walked or biked to school. Today, that number is closer to 15 percent.khoughton@newstote.com


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