Popular Shortcut Called Unsafe
Woodstock Selectman Preston Bristow, center, disusses a plan to discourage speeding on Fletcher Hill Road with residents during a site vist by the board to the road in Woodstock on Wednesday evening. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Members of the Woodstock Selectboard visited Fletcher Hill Road in Woodstock Wednesday night after residents wrote a letter complaining about speeders on the popular shortcut, which has a 35 mph speed limit. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Woodstock — A handful of Fletcher Hill Road residents are seeking action to address concerns about speeding motorists on a four-mile stretch of the unpaved road in South Woodstock.
The five neighbors made their plea to the Selectboard Wednesday night, as the board members convened at 418 Fletcher Hill Road for a site visit to assess the situation.
“It’s our neighborhood and I think it’s time that we speak up and say we have got to have things safer here,” said Fred Barr, a Fletcher Hill Road resident and former Woodstock fire chief. “I would like to see people pay attention to what’s going on and just be aware that this is a country road, it’s not Interstate 89.”
Fletcher Hill Road runs predominantly north and south, and connects with Route 106 in South Woodstock at one end and with Route 4 near the Lincoln Inn at the other .
“The road is pretty heavily traveled in the summer,” said Fletcher Hill Road resident Peter Hughes. “And people are just flying through.”
Residents said they have four primary concerns with the road, including increased traffic volume, the posted speed limit, the actual speed of vehicle traffic and the number of spots on the road with limited visibility.
In a letter earlier this month to Town Manager Philip Swanson, Barr wrote that “over the past several years” residents have noticed increased traffic because Fletcher Hill is “a convenient shortcut for travelers who want to bypass Woodstock Village.”
“It’s 10 miles shorter from South Woodstock to West Woodstock over this road,” as opposed to traveling Route 106 into Woodstock Village to reach Route 4, said Barr, who owns a nearby farm and said he had seen many close calls between cars and farm equipment.
“You have commuter habits,” he said. “People use this as a short cut rather than driving through the village.”
A bridge reconstruction project under way along Route 106 also could be adding to the volume of traffic as drivers look to bypass the construction, neighbors said.
The bridge reconstruction project started two weeks ago, according to Swanson, and is expected to be complete in three to four weeks.
The current posted speed limit on Fletcher Hill is 35 mph, which Hughes said is too fast given visibility on the road.
“There is no need to be going 35 mph on that road,” he said, while pointing out two large S-curves. “If you are going 35 you are going way too fast.”
Hughes and other residents along Fletcher Hill Road said they would like the speed limit reduced. Although the Selectboard governs town operations, Swanson said the State of Vermont must approve changes to speed limits, following a traffic study.
“The law in the state of Vermont is 35 mph is the lowest this town can post gravel roads,” he said.
Selectboard members and Swanson instead proposed a dangerous curve warning sign with a suggested speed limit of 15 mph was a fitting alternative. Signs like the one suggested also are on Prosper Street north of Route 4.
“It’s an advisory and we can put those up,” Swanson said.
The Fletcher Hill Road traffic concerns will be discussed again at the Aug. 6 Selectboard meeting where board members will take an up or down vote on the warning sign. Swanson said if approved, the sign would take roughly 30 days to obtain and install.
“The concerns here are very real,” Selectboard Vice Chairman Bruce Gould said. “Within our power we will do everything we can to help the situation.”
At the July 16 Selectboard meeting, there were discussions of placing radar signs along a portion of Fletcher Hill Road that would flash the speed of passing vehicles. The signs were present last night and one of them sat right on Hughes property.
Since it was placed there “a couple of days ago,” Hughes said he has seen improvement.
Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3248.