Proposal may save money on road work

AMHERST – The town’s Public Works director thinks he can fix the traffic problem near the high school for about $178,000 less than previously anticipated – a 42 percent discount.

The proposed solution – widening a portion of Boston Post Road, adding a left-hand turn lane and installing a traffic light – is the same one that appeared on last year’s Town Meeting warrant. Voters rejected the project, which was then pegged at about $425,000.

By not putting the project out to bid and keeping it a primarily “in-house” job to be done by his crew, Public Works Director Bruce Berry believes the work can be done for about $247,000.

“We’re not in it to make a profit,” he said.

Berry explained that when the original numbers were put together, costs were based on “conceptual engineering numbers” that estimate the time and expense involved with various procedures.

He compared it to the standardized book that mechanics consult to give car repair estimates.

In addition to the profit factor now being moot, further savings would stem from using primarily town equipment as well as some recycled materials, he said.

For example, Berry would use landscaping loam made from the compost at the town’s recycling center. He would also use recycled asphalt and gravel that he has stockpiled over the past couple of years from various road improvement projects, he said.

Berry recently presented the revised plan to the Board of Selectmen and is anticipating the project will reappear before voters as a warrant article at Town Meeting in March.

Berry has been working with town and school officials to address traffic concerns at the intersection of Boston Post and Davis Witty roads. He said the intersection was not just a “school issue,” as Souhegan High School is used for many other town events. The area, a trouble spot for several years, is only getting worse, he said.

A traffic count done earlier in the year put daily Boston Post Road traffic near the Merrimack border at 5,900 cars a day, Berry said.

If the project is approved, drivers will not need to worry about lengthy delays at the light, Berry said.

The light, which would be triggered by cars trying to pull in or out of the school, would be able to prioritize the length of red-light waits based on the volume of traffic in each direction, Berry said. For most of the day, the light would remain green.

The number of cars traveling this particular stretch of Boston Post Road has fallen a bit since the start of school because commuters have found alternative routes on more rural roads and by cutting through subdivisions, Berry said.

The increased wear and tear on these roads will only lead to more erosion and potholes, expensive problems for the town to fix, Berry said.

He cited a recent study by the Nashua Regional Planning Commission that speculated traffic in the area will “increase significantly” over the next decade.

“Something’s got to change,” he said. “It’s inevitable.”