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Milford's Route 101 traffic puts safety on minds of planners

Union Leader Correspondent

January 09. 2013 10:21PM

MILFORD - Though they're still a few years down the pike, the town and the state Department of Transportation are preparing for changes to routes 101 and 101A to improve safety at both ends of town.

At the west end of town, the stretch of Route 101 that intersects with Elm Street near Market Basket and heads west to the Wilton town line has had many accidents, several of them fatal. The stretch of road carries a lot of traffic east and west past gas stations, coffee shops and other businesses, but there is no turn lane so it's not uncommon for cars to be rear-ended or to be hit coming out of a parking lot onto the road.

Milford police Capt. Chris Nervik said that there have been three fatal accidents on the portion of Route 101 in the last 10 years and there are dozens of other accidents every year.

"There were 31 accidents on this portion of Elm Street for 2012," said Nervik.

Town Administrator Guy Scaife said the DOT is working on a short-term fix to improve safety along that corridor, to include a center lane for turning traffic.

"We have complained for years about this highly congested and dangerous area, and the DOT has made it a top priority," said Scaife.

Engineering work on the project will begin immediately and should be completed by March, but the money for the work won't come available in the state's 10-year highway plan until 2016.

"The idea is to get the project 'shovel-ready' by getting the engineering done so that if some funding becomes available, we could get it done earlier," said Scaife.

But the project doesn't offer a long-term solution, Scaife said, and that concerns the town. Taking fast-moving traffic off of the Route 101 bypass and funneling onto a busy secondary road like Elm Street is not a scenario that is best for the community in the long run, said Scaife.

"The state needs to come up with a better solution for an east-west highway, but the funding just isn't there to solve the problem," he said. "We need an adequate funding source to fix all the red-line bridges and highway inadequacies in the state."

On the east end of town near the Amherst town line, the intersection at Route 101A that carries traffic onto Route 101 eastbound is another dangerous and inconvenient spot that the state also aims to fix, said Scaife. The intersection requires cars coming off of Route 101 to wait for traffic to clear before being able to turn west towards downtown Milford, and it requires traffic heading onto the highway east to line up in a turning lane. During busy times, traffic builds up quickly both onto Route 101 and on Route 101A, said Scaife, and the simple solution would be a traffic light.

"The intersection is already in failure mode," said Scaife, "and DOT is confident from a safety and traffic mitigation standpoint that a traffic light would fix the problem."

Engineering is also set to begin on the project, but funding is even further out than the west end project and construction isn't slated until 2018.

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