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For Nashua student walkers, commute may soon be safer

Union Leader Correspondent

March 13. 2014 9:00PM

NASHUA — In response to concerns from parents about the safety of students who walk to and from city schools, officials are moving to remedy some of the problems.

This week, the aldermanic Committee on Infrastructure recommended that three flashing speed limit signs be placed within three separate school zones throughout the community.

The proposal, which still needs to be reviewed by the aldermanic Budget Committee, would station the signs at Mount Pleasant Elementary School, New Searles Elementary School and St. Christopher School.

“This is nothing short of a miracle,” Tracy Pappas told the committee on Wednesday. “From the bottom of my heart, I thank everyone who was involved in this.”

Sponsored by Alderman Ken Siegel of Ward 9, the proposal is expected to cost about $30,000 for the purchase and installation of the three signs.

He is suggesting that money saved from the vacant community development director position be used to purchase the signs.

Siegel, who said there were several roadblocks in getting the proposal drafted, said the initiative has been a high priority for him.

“It is clearly a good thing,” he said, adding the possibility of purchasing signs for other local schools should also be explored.

Alderman David Deane, president of the Board of Aldermen, agreed that the flashing speed limit signs are highly effective.

“It is a nightmare to cross Concord Street,” said Deane, adding Manchester Street is also a busy and fast roadway for young pedestrians to maneuver. There is a lot of people and activity in that area, coupled with blind spots that make it very dangerous when students are released from school, he said.

Danielle St. Hilaire, who has a child attending Mount Pleasant Elementary School, said the safety of student walkers is critically important.

“It only makes sense that we have enough signage on that street,” she said.

Despite the hurdles, which included confusion with pricing estimates and delays in speaking with city employees, Siegel said he hopes to get the proposal expedited in an effort to help improve safety around the schools.

“This is kind of a no-brainer,” agreed Pappas. “… I cannot say how appreciative I am.”

Last month, city officials accepted a federal grant to make adjustments to the pedestrian infrastructure around Charlotte Avenue Elementary School, at which time concerns were raised about walking routes around other city schools as well.

The Board of Aldermen authorized 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 grant, which includes a $36,500 match from the city, will likely be used to install flashing lights and speed indicators in the area of Charlotte Avenue school, as well as a new crosswalk, sidewalk and drainage improvements.

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