Friday, October 14, 2011

Franconia Notch Parkway

The NHDOT called a meeting about the Franconia Notch Parkway last night. A couple of dozen folks showed up at Peabody Slopes base lodge, most of them fire and rescue team people, along with some police and sheriff’s deputies. All of whom have vivid memories of trying to reach the sites of automobile crashes at night during blizzards and whiteouts. The DOT people all regret that the Parkway is not built to Interstate Highway standards, but were under instruction by the legislature to stick with the agreement hammered out thirty years ago between the DOT and the hikers, campers, conservationists and environmentalists back when the current parkway was built.
The outdoors people look on Franconia Notch as a beautiful and well loved wilderness area for hiking and camping. If they had their way there would be no road at all, and no ski resort at Cannon. The highway people and the rescue first responders want four lanes and a good big shoulder so they can get thru to an accident scene with a fire truck.
Thirty years ago the hikers and campers forced a the current deal, a two lane road. It took years of fighting to resolve the issue and memories linger. Nobody wants to re open that particular can of worms.
Making life difficult is the centerline barrier. Thirty years ago when the road was widened, there was no centerline barrier. Old US Route 3 thru the Notch was just an ordinary two lane blacktop country road. When the new road was blasted thru, it had no centerline barrier. Then they had a number of horrific crashes, and the existing centerline barrier was installed to prevent them. Trouble is, with the barrier there is no way to get a rescue vehicle turned around. Franconia rescue vehicles can only reach accidents in the southbound lane, North Woodstock can only reach accidents in the northbound lane, and there is no way to get past the line of cars that back up behind a bad accident scene.
There was a lot of discussion about snow removal. Someone asked about getting a big snow blower to toss the snow well clear of the road and keep the snowdrifts from encroaching upon the road. The guy from DOT replied that snow blowers were high maintenance. Everytime they suck up a rock or an unlucky road sign they break.
After a lot of discussion the meeting broke up with nothing decided or revealed. The DOT’s plans for the Franconia Notch Parkway are known only to DOT.

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