MANCHESTER — City aldermen are expected to hear a presentation Tuesday night on possible redesign concepts for Maple and Beech streets — referred to by some residents as the “Manchester Motor Speedway.”
“This is bigger than just a traffic-calming issue,” said Ward 2 Alderman Will Stewart. “This is about quality of life. If we want people to want to live in Manchester, we need to make it more livable.”
City staff drafted the redesign concepts, which include making no changes at all, after reviewing data showing 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.
The data was compiled following a request by members of the Aldermanic Committee on Public Safety, Health and Traffic to review accident and speed data in the Maple and Beech street area.
Stewart sent an email newsletter outlining the proposals to Ward 2 residents over the weekend ahead of Tuesday’s 6:30 p.m. meeting in the aldermanic chambers at City Hall. According to Stewart, the proposals include:
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.
Option 2: This option would see Maple and Beech streets reverted back to two-way streets, as they were prior to 1974.
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.
Option 4: This option would see Maple and Beech remain as they currently are: one-way, two lane streets.
Tuesday will mark the first time any of the redesign concepts are discussed at a public meeting. There may be some additional options discussed Tuesday as well, Stewart said.
“No decision on how, or even if, we should redesign Maple and Beech streets will be made Tuesday night or anytime soon,” said Stewart. “There will be opportunities to study the options, and more opportunities for public input. I just wanted to put the word out there and let people know the conversation on how to address these issues is starting.”
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.
A total of 151 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.
Stewart said since running for alderman in 2017, he has heard from residents concerned with living, driving, biking and walking along these “one-way, two-lane ‘urban highways.’”
“With one stoplight along there, if you hit it right you can just fly,” said Stewart. “For people living along the ‘Manchester Motor Speedway,’ traffic is too fast on these streets. Backing out of a driveway onto Maple or Beech feels like you’re taking your life into your hands. Parents said they don’t feel safe letting their kids ride their bikes on these streets, or even letting them cross the street on foot to access Oak Park and Wagner Park, or to get to a friend’s house.”
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.
“To slow down traffic and really improve the quality of life in this residential neighborhood, I believe the design of Maple and Beech themselves must be improved,” said Stewart.