April 09. 2014 8:02PM

DOT program will replace faded signs on Windham back roads

Union Leader Correspondent

WINDHAM — The town of Windham will soon partner with the state Department of Transportation to replace many of the faded signs on back roads.

During Monday night’s meeting of the Board of Selectmen, members voted unanimously in favor of participating in the DOT’s High Risk Rural Road Sign Replacement Program, a federal initiative aimed at reducing the number of traffic-related injuries and fatalities.

William Oldenberg, administrator of highway design at the state DOT, shared a brief overview of the program during this week’s meeting.

Oldenberg said the program, which is mandated by the federal government and funded through the federal gas tax, has been active in the Granite State for the past four years.

“Looking at our statistics, some of the most serious crashes occur on rural roads,” he said. “In many cases, motorists strike a tree, a rock or a ditch.”

Since the program’s inception, the state has spent about $900,000 annually to improve signage in a number of communities, focusing mainly on rural, connector and local roadways.

Once a town agrees to participate in the program, state and town officials begin the process of taking inventory of the town’s roadways, taking note of any existing signs that have faded or proven ineffective in the past.

Those signs are then replaced with highly reflective ones that are also treated with an anti-graffiti coating.

“These new signs are much, much brighter than the older signs,” Oldenberg said. “The idea is to make them much more noticeable, not just at night but during the day as well.”

“We tend to say that these signs actually glow in the dark,” he said. “You’ll definitely notice them.”

Particular emphasis is made on replacing curve signs, as well as signs posting speed limits.

“We also take a look at advisory speed,” Oldenberg said. “Sometimes if there’s a curve up ahead, people should be slowing down. The signs all need to be consistent. If it says the speed limit is 35, you shouldn’t be in danger of going off the road doing 35 (miles per hour).”

According to statistics compiled by the DOT, signs replaced through the program have resulted in a 10 to 15 percent reduction in overall vehicle crashes.

Oldenberg said six other towns in the region have likewise been identified as potential candidates for the program: Derry, Lee, Raymond, Deerfield, Chester and Nottingham.

Forty other towns in New Hampshire have already had some signs replaced.

Windham ranks 40th out of over 200 Granite State towns in terms of motor vehicle crash frequency, Oldenberg said.

“That’s not good at all,” Selectmen Roger Hohenberger replied. “I like the idea of these signs.”

Selectman Ross McLeod agreed.

“These signs really pop out at you,” he said. “You can’t miss them.”

Windham Fire Chief Tom McPherson, who serves on the town’s highway safety committee, said he met with DOT officials earlier this year and supported the project but left final approval on the matter up to the selectmen.

“We did have some concerns about overloading some residential areas with signage they may not really want,” McPherson said at Monday’s meeting. “But based on what I’m hearing now, we have a clearer direction.”

Local safety officials and the DOT will now finalize potential sign locations, with plans to install the new signs sometime in 2015.