WINDHAM — Following a heated two-hour discussion with members of the state Department of Transportation Monday night, the Windham Board of Selectmen opted to support keeping the controversial traffic signal at the intersection of Route 111 and Route 111A.
Board members will now put their recommendations in writing, asking the DOT to let the existing traffic signal remain. As part of the Interstate 93 expansion project, the state DOT wants to remove the signal during the relocation of Route 111A.
State transportation officials, who warned that keeping the light in place while adding another light at the new Route 111A would ultimately mean more future traffic delays, met publicly with Windham selectmen during the lengthy workshop session at Windham Town Hall Monday night.
Though members of the public weren’t allowed to comment during the meeting, several dozen or so citizens and town officials sat in the audience, many of them area business owners who’d previously voiced concerns that removing the traffic light would have dire consequences when it came to their daily operations.
The board’s decision was not an easy one and after hearing further details of the plans from DOT project manager Peter Stamnas, selectmen went through a series of several failed votes before arriving at their final decision.
Selectmen voted 3-2 in favor of the recommendation, which Selectmen Al Letizio Jr. and Phil LoChiatto opposed.
After hearing previously unknown details of the DOT’s plans, which include building a new Park and Ride near the new highway exits and relocating Route 111A to the west, Letizio said he supported the state’s plans as a whole, including the proposal to eventually remove the current traffic light.“Whether we like it or not it looks like the new Park and Ride is going there,” he said, noting the state’s plans to relocate the light at the new Route 111A, closer to I-93.
“We’ve been kicking the can down the road for months now and it’s time to do the right thing,” LoChiatto added, noting that keeping the traffic light in question would go against the state’s plans to evenly space out the eventual traffic light configuration and having the old light remain would have some very negative effects on traffic.
Stamnas said the board’s written recommendation would be considered throughout the planning process, though the state still has the final say on what happens to the light.
“There’s still some conversations to be had with the DOT,” he said, noting that once those conversations happen he plans to return to the board “with a response as it relates to the signal.”
Keeping the current traffic signal in place would mean a total of seven sets of traffic lights for the future four-lane stretch of roadway between the I-93 exist ramps and Route 28.
Stamnas said the plan, as written, would incorporate permissive left turns as well as permissive U-turns along the route, allowing traffic to access area businesses without the current signal.
“In my mind, I think this provides additional opportunities for turning movements,” Stamnas said. “And most times of the day, people should be able to take a left-hand turn without a problem.”