My Turn: Loudon Road plan will make things worse
My thanks to City Engineer Ed Roberge and Traffic Engineer Rob Mack for their informative presentation to Loudon Road residents and businesses owners on Dec. 18 regarding the Loudon Road project. They were patient in answering the many questions from the audience and graciously stayed well beyond the allotted time to address concerns and questions from those in attendance.
As I said at the meeting, I do not believe reducing Loudon Road from four lanes to two with a shared center left turn lane is a feasible plan. Simple math dictates that if traffic dispersed over two lanes is forced into one lane, congestion will occur in that one lane.
Not only will traffic be moving at a crawl in this one lane, but drivers attempting to make left turns will now have an even more difficult time because of the added cars coming at them. Furthermore, the plan to have drivers merge from two lanes to one at the top of Loudon Road at Airport Road for traffic heading east will create further frustration and result in backups well down Loudon Road to the bottom of the hill.
Much of what is driving this change is the desire to reduce the number of accidents on Loudon Road (100 annually by the city’s count). Certainly that is a desirable goal, and the city projects the accident rate would be reduced by 25 percent by this new configuration.
However, no one at the meeting could present evidence that the 100 accidents are directly attributable to the present lane configuration on Loudon Road – e.g., how many of the 100 accidents were due to weather conditions, impaired drivers, inexperienced drivers and distracted drivers, causes that may have nothing to do with the current lane design.
We heard much about drivers weaving in and out of lanes but no data on how many accidents were attributed to this behavior. Furthermore, adding a bicycle lane to the mix, as proposed in the new design, would seem to add a further dangerous complication, as drivers must now be alert to bicycle traffic on what will be a very busy road.
In the final analysis, the trade-off for addressing a configuration that may not be the cause of the problem is sacrificing the smooth and efficient movement of traffic on this stretch of road.
If I owned a business on Loudon Road, I would be very concerned with this proposal, since drivers will eventually migrate to the mall or the strip malls downtown to avoid the congestion the new proposal will cause. Residents abutting Loudon Road also expressed serious concerns at the meeting about their ability to access side streets leading to their homes. Both city council representatives from the Heights, as well as outgoing Councilor Dick Patten, were concerned enough to attend the hearing and heard the many expressions of opposition (to be fair, a few people expressed mild support).
I call upon our representatives to take seriously what they heard and vote No when the project comes up for approval at the February city council meeting.
(Chuck Annal lives in Concord.)