North Policy Guardrail Denied Despite Recommendation by Engineers

November 7, 2014

by S. Aaron Shamshoyan

A plan to reconstruct North Policy Street in the near future will include installing a guardrail along Canobie Lake, and that proposal isn’t sitting well with area residents.

Town Manager Keith Hickey told selectmen last week the engineering firm selected to design the road project planned to install a metal guardrail along the length of the lake.

A similar plan was denied over 10 years ago when the board voted against the recommendation citing concerns by North Policy Street residents.

“This is what’s being proposed by engineering standards,” he said. “We cannot get a plan stamped by a professional engineer without a guardrail.”

The recommendation is backed by town staff saying the guardrail would usually be installed along with the project, and not include public discussion on the matter.

“From an engineering standpoint, this is a very cut and dry issue,” Town Engineer Bob Puff said. “If it weren’t for some of the back story on this particular issue, I would normally install it as just a matter of course.”

Puff said the police department agreed with the recommendation citing five accidents in the area since 2010, with one car landing in the lake.

But the plan received opposition from residents, fearing a guardrail would lead to safety hazards and detract from the view of the lake.

Bill Ganley of North Policy said he strongly felt the guardrail would be a safety concern.

“Right now the road is very narrow,” he said. “There’s no room for anyone to go now; there’s just not room, even for a traffic stop.”

Ganley said there is frequent use of the bank and a guardrail would reduce available space to do so. He added cars would tend to travel closer to the center of the road with a guardrail on the edge which could lead to accidents.

He was also concerned about changes to the bank of the lake, saying trees would likely be removed and the view would be obstructed.

“I don’t think it would be aesthetically pleasing,” he said. “After hearing tonight it’s going to be an ugly metal guardrail, I can tell you, yeah, I think it’s going to look like crap.”

Jeff Schulte of North Policy said there hasn’t been a need for the guardrail along the history of the roads existence.

“That road’s been there since before the turn of the century,” he said, adding speed bumps or other methods could be used to reduce travel speed.

Puff said a wooden alternative was researched for visual purposes, but wouldn’t work for the application. He said end units for the metal rail are designed to crumple, and a wooden version is not available.

Selectman Everett McBride said people walking along the edge of the road couldn’t get over the rail quickly if an accident was eminent.

“There is liability everywhere,” he said. “It’s a risk.

The engineering firm wouldn’t provide a professional engineering stamp on the proposal without the guardrail. This would leave liability in the hands of selectmen.

The board voted 3-2 to oppose the installation of the guardrail. Hickey said a note will be added to the plan regarding the board’s position on the guardrail. Selectman James Keller and Lyons were in the minority.