Pedestrian crosses Maple Street

A pedestrian crosses two lanes of one-way traffic on Maple Street near the Orange Street intersection in Manchester on Nov. 15, 2018. The city has announced a pilot program to reduce a portion of Maple Street to one lane, and add a dedicated bike lane, through mid-June.

MANCHESTER — City officials have approved a temporary pilot program for later this month designed to reduce speeds through an area known to some as the “Manchester Motor Speedway.”

Aldermen voted to support the temporary pilot program as a potential method to calm traffic in the area of Maple and Beech streets, where data shows 337 accidents were reported over a three-year period at 12 intersections along the Maple, Beech, and Union street corridors between Webster and Bridge streets in Manchester.

Later this month, a portion of Maple Street will be temporarily reduced to one travel lane, with accompanying bike lane. A neighborhood meeting will be held this Thursday, May 16, at 6 p.m. at Mount Carmel Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, 235 Myrtle St.

City traffic engineer Kristen Clarke told members of the Aldermanic Committee on Public Safety last week public works is scheduled to pave Maple Street between Pearl and North streets in mid-June.

“We realized that gave us an opportunity,” said Clarke. “We had a lot of discussions about different configurations for Maple Street. We want to see if narrowing to one lane with a bike lane on Maple Street reduces speeds. We have the opportunity next month to try striping with one lane before the paving is done to see what we may want to put back before paving.”

Later this month, public works will reduce the two vehicular travel lanes on Maple Street between Pearl and North streets down to one 14-foot wide vehicular travel lane and one 5-foot wide bicycle lane, with a 3-foot buffer between the bike lane and the parking lane.

“DPW staff and I will be on hand at the meeting Thursday to discuss the timing of this pilot project, as well as how it will be implemented and evaluated,” wrote Ward 2 Alderman Will Stewart over the weekend in an email to residents. “After the completion of the pilot project, a second neighborhood meeting will be held to get feedback on the temporary change and the impact it had on travel and the neighborhood.”

Earlier this year, city officials reviewed several redesign proposals for the Maple and Beech street areas.

The proposals included:

Option 1 — This option would see Maple and Beech streets remain one-way streets, but be reduced to one vehicular travel lane and one semi-protected bike lane. Traffic could only go as fast as vehicles in front of them.

Option 2 — This option would see Maple and Beech streets reverted back to two-way streets, as they were prior to 1974. Traffic could only go as fast as vehicles in front of them.

Option 3 — This option would see Maple and Beech streets remain one-way streets, but be reduced to one vehicular travel lane with bump-outs containing trees. Traffic could only go as fast as vehicles in front of them.

Option 4 — This option would see Maple and Beech remain as they currently are: one-way, two lane streets.

According to city planners, estimates peg the cost for option 1 between $50,000 and $75,000. The cost for option 3 is estimated to be between $250,000 and $300,000. No cost estimate was provided for option 2.

As previously reported by the New Hampshire Union Leader, data shows 84 crashes were reported along the Maple Street corridor over a three-year span from 2015-2017. Of the 84 crashes, 37 — or 44 percent — occurred at the signalized intersections of Webster, Blodget, and Bridge streets.

Over the same three-year period, 102 crashes were reported along the Beech Street corridor. Of these, 37 — or 36 percent — occurred at the signalized intersections of Webster, Blodget, and Bridge streets. Of the 102 crashes, 23 involved vehicles headed southbound on Beech Street attempting to turn from the wrong lane.

One hundred and fifty one crashes were reported along Union Street between January 2015 and December 2017. Of those, 32 percent — or 49 crashes — occurred at the signalized intersections of Webster and Bridge streets.

According to the report, the most common crash types at all three locations were running a red light, rear-end collisions and “left-turning traffic failing to yield to oncoming vehicles.”

Last summer city officials authorized some improvements, including improving visibility at the cross street intersections along Maple and Beech, and adding street markings on some particularly dangerous intersections.