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The Dartmouth
April 19, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Hanover Selectboard votes to reduce speed limit on Lyme Road

The road is the construction location of the College’s newest student housing complex.

Selectboard.jpg

On Sept. 11, following a public hearing, the Hanover Selectboard voted to lower the speed limit on a portion of Lyme Road from 30 miles per hour down to 25. 

The stretch of road includes two mid-block crosswalks, as well as a police and fire station. Lyme Road is a key commuter corridor connecting Hanover to neighboring towns to the north, including Lyme and Orford. 

Lyme Road is also the location of the North End Housing project — a proposed 397-bed student residence — which is slated to be located on the southernmost edge of the section of road, according to The Dartmouth’s past coverage.

Selectboard member Jennie Chamberlain said there will likely be an announcement about the change from Town Manager Alex Torpey, and the Town will also update signage on Lyme Road.

The rationale behind the proposal was based on national research about vehicle crashes at higher speeds, Chamberlain said. 

“As speed increases, the frequency and severity of crashes also increases,” Chamberlain said. “That is the case for both drivers and vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians. There is a dramatic increase in the severity of crashes [as speed increases] from 20 to 40 mph.”

Chamberlain also noted the added benefit of sound reduction, meaning less noise pollution from the road, as there is a “very direct correlation” between the sound of the road and the speed vehicles are traveling on the road, she said.

The Selectboard proposed to lower the speed limit on a 0.7 mile stretch of Lyme Road between two traffic circles — one at the intersection between Reservoir Road and Lyme Road, and the other at the entrance to the Kendal at Hanover retirement community.

Additionally, during school hours for Frances C. Richmond Middle School, as well as during the 45-minute window before and after the school day — from 7:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and 7:15 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. on Wednesdays — the speed limit will be reduced to 15 mph. New Hampshire state law requires speed limits in school zones to be 10 mph lower than the posted speed limit during school hours.

The data from the affected stretch of road suggests that the average speed is 26 mph, Town of Hanover Planning Director Rob Houseman said. Houseman said he favored reducing the speed limit on Lyme Road to improve the safety of students during school pick-up and drop-off hours.

“Everyone benefits, especially the kids, from reduced speed during school pick-up and drop-off hours,” Houseman said.

The Selectboard heard six public comments, including one submitted by email; all but one were in favor of the proposal. Following the public comments, Selectboard chair Athos Rassias put the motion forward to a vote by the five-member Selectboard, which passed unanimously.

Lara Acker, a Hanover resident who supported the proposal, said it was important to take action “before something bad happens.”

“I think we need to think about being proactive,” Acker said. “If we want to encourage more biking and walking to school, it is really important for parents to feel like it’s safe.”

Frances C. Richmond Middle School principal Tim Boyle was also in favor of the proposal. Boyle said that he served as a temporary crossing guard for three months last year after the crossing guard at the time could not continue, and that he was concerned about what he saw regarding the safety of students crossing Lyme Road.

“There is just so much traffic, and we work really hard with students and parents to make sure that everybody is aware,” he said. “Lowering the expectations of how fast you can drive through there can make a big difference.”

Among community members who disagreed with the decision, Rich Menge, a former Hanover resident, said lowering the speed limit would increase access problems into Hanover.

“I think it’s something that’s not necessary to do,” Menge said. “Traffic is like a balloon: If you squeeze it here, it’s going to pop out somewhere else.”

Menge added that a potential solution to safety problems would be to stop allowing parking on the section of the road where school pick-ups and drop-offs take place, which could make that area safer for pedestrians and cyclists. 

Chamberlain said she hopes the entire urban compact of Hanover will eventually have speed limits of 25 mph or lower, which would involve lowering the speed limits on arterial roads such as East Wheelock Street and South Main Street.

“I don’t think that it’s a zero sum game,” Chamberlain said. “Safer roads are great for economic vibrancy and individual health. This is where we live, work and play, and so people should feel safe.”