No Change in Sight for Hunter Drive Speed Limit

The Highway Safety Committee voted not to recommend a lowered speed limit on Hunter Drive, but will ask the Derry Police Department to increase its patrols in the area.
Deborah Covino, a resident of East Derry, came to the committee a month ago with the request to lower the speed limit from 30 to 25 miles per hour after she became concerned about the speed of cars while she was walking her children to East Derry Memorial School. At that time, Highway Superintendent Alan Cote agreed to place a traffic counter on the street. Cote ran the traffic count from Nov. 21 to Nov. 26.

According to Cote, 57 vehicles passed down the street at the peak morning traffic time of 8 to 9 a.m. In the peak afternoon traffic hour, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., 42 vehicles were registered. The mean speed on weekdays was 32 mph, with an 85th percentile of 43 mph. This is the speed at which 85 percent of the people drive. The mean speed on weekends was 30 mph, with an 85th percentile of 40 mph.
The traffic count for weekdays was an average of 437 vehicles per day, with a weekend total of 271 per day.
Cote drew on his findings to tell Covino that local neighborhood traffic is traveling at the same speed as drivers using the road to access the school. The traffic counts were low even on the busiest days, he wrote in a memo, and the speeds were similar to those encountered on similar roads in town.
“It was not a tremendous variation from week days to weekend,” Cote told Covino. “It appears your neighbors are driving the same speed as everyone else.”
“The neighbors all signed my petition,” Covino countered.
Public Works Director Mike Fowler said the committee receives a number of requests to lower speed limits, and in most cases, the drivers accused of speeding are neighborhood residents.
The 85th percentile, he said, is the speed with the lowest chance of producing an accident.
Covino asked, “If you can’t change the speed limit, is it possible to explore other solutions, such as a defined pedestrian lane or a sidewalk? I’m not here about any other thing besides walking my children to school.”
Cote said it isn’t “realistic” for the town to consider putting a raised sidewalk in that part of town. When the street is plowed in the winter, the sidewalks will fill up with snow, he said. And to put in a sidewalk, “We would have to completely redesign the road, and put in a closed drainage system.” This, he said, is not financially feasible for the cash-strapped town. They did recently put one in on Tsienneto Road, he said, but Tsienneto sees 10,000 vehicles a day compared to Hunter Drive’s 437.
“Fifty residents signed this petition asking for change,” Covino said.
Police Captain George Feole said he would take the information back to Captain Vern Thomas, director of operations, and see if an officer could be assigned to the area during the peak periods.
“The speeders,” Covino said, “are anyone who’s running late on a particular day.”
The committee voted unanimously, with one abstention, not to take action on the request.