Solar-Powered Crosswalk Lighting Plan at Safety Committee

A plan by Derry Planning Board Vice-Chair John O’Connor for alleviating unsafe conditions at three of Derry’s main pedestrian crossings will be discussed Thursday, Nov. 19 at the Highway Safety Committee meeting.

O’Connor is advocating for solar-powered pedestrian crosswalk lighting, a solution he has seen in different parts of the country and state.

O’Connor, who is also a Republican state representative, said he has been concerned for years about the crosswalks on Derry’s main street, Broadway, including the ones at Santander Bank, Sabatino’s Restaurant and near the Derry Opera House. He has shared the concern with members in various Downtown committees.

O’Connor recently went to Seattle, Wash., with the state’s Agricultural Task Force and observed a solar-powered crosswalk. Also on the University of New Hampshire Extension Advisory Committee, he travels to Durham a lot and saw the solar-powered crosswalks at UNH. “A student pushes a button and a solar sign points to the crosswalk, to show that there’s a pedestrian crossing,” O’Connor said.

The new technology for solar panels gives a smaller display that is not obtrusive, he said.

There are many issues with walking downtown, O’Connor said. Parents with children often cross at Santander to get to the martial arts academy on the other side of the street, and patrons of the Opera House cross the street to get to their parking spaces. “There are a lot of functions at the Adams Memorial Building, and it gets dark at 4:45 (p.m.) now,” O’Connor said.

The solar beacons don’t stop traffic for a long time, just 15 to 20 seconds, “But that’s enough to get over,” he said.

In a phone interview Friday, Mike Fowler, Derry Director of Public Works, said crossing Broadway is not a new concern and was discussed recently in the Highway Safety Committee after a resident wrote a letter to the group.

Solutions for the problem include O’Connor’s suggestion of solar beacons and a regular pedestrian crossing such as the one at Birch Street and East Broadway, where the pedestrian pushes a button and a “Walk” sign comes on.

A full pedestrian signal such as the one at Birch Street and East Broadway could cost from $75,000 to $100,000, while each solar beacon would cost an estimated $15,000. The basic cost for each one is $7,500, but each would have to have a foundation, he said.

In the past, the town has been reluctant to put up too many stoplights or stop signs, and not only because of the cost, according to Fowler. “It’s a philosophy of engineering,” he said, “that you don’t put stop signs at every intersection. You don’t want to disrupt the flow of traffic on the main road.” With 17,000 to 18,000 vehicles passing down West and East Broadway each day, which is also Route 102, another stoplight would bog down that traffic, he said.

The flashing beacon does not stop traffic, but does warn motorists that a pedestrian is crossing, according to Fowler.

Fowler said he had run the costs on both options and given the estimates to Acting Town Administrator Susan Hickey.

The Safety Committee meets Nov. 19 at 9 a.m. in the second-floor conference room of the Municipal Center.