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Lebanon to Discuss Route 10 Safety Plans

West Lebanon — When Linda Barton leaves her condo in Pinewood Village to take her Shih Tzu for a walk, she waits for both lanes of traffic to clear completely before crossing Route 10 at the end of Oak Ridge Road to Sachem Field.

Barton, treasurer of the Pinewood Village Condo Association, said her caution stems, in part, from the 2010 death of 78-year-old pedestrian Jay Whitehair after he was struck by two cars on Route 10 near the very crosswalk she uses four or five times each week. Whitehair, a retired assistant dean at Dartmouth College, was Barton’s neighbor in Pinewood Village, a community of 31 residences.

“We have a life here that’s been lost,” she said Sunday.

Following Whitehair’s death, Pinewood residents joined forces with city, regional and state planners, bicycle and pedestrian advocates, and public safety officials to find a solution to the ongoing threat to public safety. Now, a solution may be at hand. The Lebanon City Council will consider three design options for improving public safety at its meeting on Wednesday.

“The designs look to be really excellent,” said Councilwoman Carol Dustin, Ward 3.

Dustin sits on the city’s public safety committee, which reviewed the plans at its March 11 meeting.

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation, with funding from the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program, conducted a road safety audit, which found that pedestrian safety is one of several concerns along that stretch of Route 10, as well as safety for bicyclists, accessibility to bus stops on both sides of the intersection, collisions with deer, and maintenance of road lines and signs.

“Everybody has tried to come together to reflect the significance and importance of this given the volume of traffic in the area,” said Barton. “It shows what can happen when everybody really collaborates.”

Under “Concept 1,” the New Hampshire Department of Transportation would construct a median island between the two lanes of traffic on Route 10 and install a pedestrian-activated light over the crosswalk.

The DOT would also mark the crosswalk more clearly and enhance the bus stops’ accessibility by installing ramps for handicapped individuals.

The second suggestion includes the same elements as the first, but adds four-foot shoulders along both sides of Route 10 between the entrance to James W. Campion III Rink and Gould Road and a left turn lane for northbound motorists entering Oak Ridge Road.

Widening Route 10 would require sidewalk reconstruction from Oak Ridge Road to Quail Hollow Drive and the relocation of utility poles, as well as the rights of way necessary to do so.

The third and most complicated possibility would move the end of Gould Road to align it with Oak Ridge Road, creating a four-way intersection and allowing for more typical traffic flows.

The work on the state-managed Route 10, which is estimated to cost approximately $75,000 to $280,000, will be funded through the federal Highway Safety Improvement Program. The city will not be on the hook for the improvements.

Councilors will vote on whether to endorse the first concept at their meeting, giving them time to consider the more complicated elements of the other two.

“Public safety is a huge priority for the council and it always has been,” said Assistant Mayor Suzanne Prentiss, Ward 1, chairwoman of the public safety committee. “I don’t anticipate any push back.”

The exact timeline for the work is yet to be determined, but Prentiss said she expects the first improvements would be completed in 2015.

Barton expressed a sense of urgency. She said she would like to see a crosswalk lighting system, similar to the one at the intersection of West Wheelock Street and Route 10 in Hanover, installed sooner rather than later.

“My concern is expedience,” she said. “Let’s get a flashing light up there.”

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.