Highway Safety Looks at Road Striping on Three Roads

The Derry Highway Safety Committee will recommend three town roads to the Town Council for “striping,” while doing a traffic count in the spring on three more.

Alan Cote, Derry superintendent of highway operations, discussed the striping and traffic count at the March 20 Highway Safety Committee meeting.

Cote reminded the committee, “Back in January, we had a resident of Gulf Road ask us to consider ‘striping’ their road.” At the time, Cote said, the group decided that “if we’re going to look at striping, we’re going to look at all the roads.”

The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Development (MUTCD), a reference book for the industry, states that the standard is: “center line marking shall be placed on all paved urban arterials and collectors that have a traveled way of 20 feet or more in width and an ADT (average daily traffic) of 6,000 vehicles a day or greater.” The “shall” isn’t a problem for Derry, Cote told the group: the town has already placed center line marking, or “striping,” on those roads.

It’s when they get into the “shoulds” that they have problems, according to Cote. The MUTCD states that “center line markings should be placed on paved urban arterials and collectors that have a traveled way of 20 feet or more in width and an ADT of 4,000 vehicles per day or greater.” The suggested parameters for rural arterials and collectors are a traveled way of 18 feet or more and an ADT of 3,000 vehicles per day or greater.

Cote reminded the group that striping roads can be a hot topic with rural dwellers. “They don’t like losing their ‘country road,’” he said.

In his research, Cote found three roads that are not yet striped but see more than 3,000 cars a day: Fordway from Transfer Lane to Kendall Pond Road, 5,600 cars per day, 2011; English Range Road from the Route 28 Bypass to Pingree Hill Road, 3,800, 2009; and Scobie Pond Road from Route 28 to the Route 28 Bypass, 3,800 cars per day, 2009.

“Historically, in the past, we have followed the MUTCD for speed limits and other rules,” he said. “We have not done these randomly.”

There are many values to striping, Cote said, explaining, “It will give motorists an indication of what the road is going to do next. You can’t put a sign up on every curve of the road.”

Police Chief Ed Garone said, “I do a lot of driving. In my personal opinion, fog lines and center lines do help. But we should be basing our decision on science, history, accidents in the area.”

Fire Chief George Klauber observed that the ADT doesn’t always take in the curvature of the road. Lane Road has a lower ADT, 600 cars in 2009, but has seen a number of accidents. “There is one spot on Lane Road I can picture that, if you don’t make the curve, you are liable to continue straight into a field,” he said.

The MUTCD has a provision for that, Cote said, with a clause saying in some situations, “engineering judgment should be used” and “where an engineering study indicates.”

While some members suggested striping a particularly dangerous portion of a road, Cote said, “if we’re going to stripe, we stripe.”

Member Mike Houghton observed that on some rural roads, the striping tends to fade away.

That’s because of the paint, Cote responded. “We used to use oil-based paint, and it lasted longer,” he said. “Now the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) requires that we use water-based paint, and it’s not as durable.” And no town has the budget to stripe three times a year, Cote added.

The markings can also be damaged in winter, when a steel plow scrapes against the paint, he said.

But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t stripe, according to Cote. He cited statistics from a study by Texas A&M University with the Federal Highway Administration showing a 12 percent decrease in nighttime crashes when centerline markings were installed. The decrease climbed to 16 percent when edge lines were installed. Center and edge lines resulted in a 33 percent decrease in low-visibility nighttime crashes, according to the study.

But not all residents want striping. Acting Town Administrator Larry Budreau referred to a letter he received from Stephen Mitchell of Cemetery Road, who is “vehemently opposed” to striping his road. The 3 1/2-page letter contained 21 questions, and was one of the “most voluminous” he has received in his career, Budreau said.

“His bottom line is, he doesn’t want Cemetery Road striped,” Budreau said.

There are 19 roads eligible for striping, Cote said. To avoid “cherry-picking,” he said he favored a scientific approach according to the MUDTC guidelines.

Gulf Road, the subject of the original request, is not a candidate for striping at this point because it only sees 1,400 vehicles a day, Cote said, noting, “That’s less than half.”

Public Works Director Michael Fowler sent a message through Budreau that he was “neutral” on the issues of striping, but added, according to Budreau, “If Highway Safety thinks it’s a good idea, we’ll figure out the cost.”

The cost for striping the 19 roads would be an additional $20,000, Cote said. It would raise the roadway painting appropriation from $10,500 per year to $30,400 per year. But he said the cost-benefit ratio is significant.

The committee approved making a recommendation to the Town Council that Fordway, English Range Road and Scobie Pond Road be striped. The three roads are 16,000 feet combined and will cost an additional $3,200 to stripe, Cote said.

Cote recommended doing a traffic study on three other roads: Windham Depot from Route 28 to the Windham Town Line, 2,376 ADT in 2009, 1,900 in 2011; Adams Pond Road from Old Chester Road to Hampstead Road, 2,600 ADT in 2009; and Cemetery Road from Island Pond Road to East Derry Road, 2,781 in 2009, 2,200 in 2011. Cote said he preferred to do the study in May or June, noting that that was the time people moved around more.