Lebanon Development Would Affect Traffic

Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, August 08, 2015
Lebanon — A proposal to develop more than 300 single-family homes near the Carter Country Club’s golf course off Route 4 near Exit 19 on Interstate 89 would increase delays for motorists at nearby intersections, according to a traffic study the Planning Board is set to review on Monday.

The Carter Country Club Houses on the Hill project, as proposed by the club’s owner Doug Homan for the board’s review, would include 307 single-family house lots to be built in 10 phases. Connector roads within the approximately 300-acre site would extend from Poverty Lane to Buckingham Place and from Slayton Hill Road to Buckingham Place. Should the project be constructed, extreme delays or possible waits of longer than 100 seconds are expected at the intersections of Route 4 — also known as Mechanic Street — and Slayton Hill Road, Buckingham Place and Mascoma Street, according to the traffic study prepared by White River Junction-based RSG. Long and increased lines of traffic also are anticipated.

During the Planning Board’s first meeting to discuss the project in June, residents of the Kings Grant neighborhood — which abuts the proposed project area — expressed a slew of concerns about the project’s scope, feasibility and impacts on drainage, quality of life, property values, the nine-hole golf course and traffic.

“It’s very ambitious,” City Planner Maggie Howard-Heretakis said. “If it was to be approved, I would imagine there would be a lot of conditions they’d have to meet.” Homan has met with neighbors to pursue an alternative plan which would include mixed-use development along Mechanic Street, a relocated golf course, skiing and hiking trails and some residential development. Such a plan would require voters’ approval of a necessary zoning change.

Homan has said he plans to pursue both possible plans for the property simultaneously. A message left for Homan on his cellphone on Friday was not returned.

Monday’s review of the traffic study will be the second meeting at which the board has discussed the project. Several members have had to recuse themselves because they live near the project area, making it more difficult for the board to have the quorum it needs to discuss the project, Howard-Heretakis said. The City Council, however, has recently appointed two new members, so the board — which regularly meets twice a month — should be able to have the quorum necessary to discuss the project more often than it has so far.

For a project of this scale, Howard-Heretakis said it would not be uncommon for it to take a year to go through the preliminary review process before progressing to a final review.

According to the traffic study, the developers anticipate welcoming the project’s first occupants in 2016.

At peak during the afternoon commute, the project could put as many as 288 cars on the road per hour, according to the traffic study.

Those vehicles would be in addition to the roughly 14,000 cars that travel through the area daily, according to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.

To address the increased traffic pressures, RSG in its study recommended adding a traffic light at the intersection of Slayton Hill Road and Route 4 and adding a two-way left-turn lane to the east of Exit 19 to match the existing lane that extends to the west of Exit 19 through the Miracle Mile. The study notes that a reduction in crashes from 2009 to 2013 appears to coincide with the two-way striping of the two-way left-turn lane to the west.

Between January 2004 and December 2013, there were 299 crashes in the vicinity, according to the study. None of the crashes resulted in fatalities. The only three which resulted in incapacitating injuries occurred at I-89 ramp intersections.

RSG does not recommend adding a traffic light at the Buckingham Place intersection because the traffic volumes only are significant during peak hours, according to the study. Instead, RSG recommends adding a two-way left-turn lane, which would allow motorists making a left out of Buckingham Place to turn when there is a break in eastbound traffic without having to wait for a break in westbound traffic as well.

Though there have been no serious injuries or fatalities at the Buckingham Place intersection, Deputy Police Chief Phillip Roberts said adding a light there might help alleviate what is “already a known problem.”

Adding more than 300 additional single-family homes to the area increases the risk of an accident, he said.

In addition, the development’s connector road, which is proposed to intersect with Poverty Lane, is slated to sit on a corner and Roberts said that might cause visibility problems.

City Engineer Christina Hall said that RSG’s mitigation proposal conflicts with the city’s draft plans for improving Mechanic Street from Exit 19 east to High Street.

For example, the city’s draft plans include constructing a roundabout at the intersection of Slayton Hill Road and Route 4, Hall said.

With the Mechanic Street improvement project, which would not be under construction until 2018 at the earliest, Hall said the city aims to make the street more pedestrian-, bicyclist- and bus-friendly, improve drainage, enhance its appearance and address congestion.

The project has been delayed, in part, due to funding challenges at the state and federal levels, Hall said.

Despite the delay, Hall said reconstructing Mechanic Street is a high priority for the city.

“That’s the main connector from West Lebanon to downtown,” she said.

The city’s capital improvement program lists planned expenditures of $5.5 million in 2018 and $6.6 million in 2019 for the project.

The Planning Board’s meeting, including a discussion of the traffic study, is set for 6:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

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