BERLIN — The N.H. Department of Transportation is being asked to lower the speed limit on Route 110 to allow ATVs to travel on the road all the way from the city proper to Jericho Mountain State Park.
In a joint letter, the city, the Androscoggin Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Berlin Industrial Development and Park Authority are asking DOT to lower the speed from 50 mph on 40 mph from Dalton Mountain Motor Sports to just west of the park entrance — a distance of 2,600 feet. The state does not allow ATVs on highways with speed limits over 40 mph.
The organizations cite the region’s efforts to expand the local economy by marketing the area as a destination for motorized recreation and especially ATV enthusiasts. The letter notes the city and state are in discussions about having Berlin take over ownership of Route 110 all the way to the park. But while those discussions are ongoing, the organizations argue the state could lower the speed limit to facilitate additional development now.
“Collectively we feel strongly that expanded access for ATV traffic will spur further economic development along the Route 110 corridor that is vital for the Berlin economy and we think there is a simple solution that warrants thoughtful consideration by NHDOT."
There are proposals for campgrounds, an outdoor recreation park, and a pod line to the top of Jericho Mountain in proximity to the state park. The letter states that a key component to facilitate development is access and the speed limit on the approximately half mile stretch of Route 110 from Dalton Mountain Motor Sports building to the park. It points out that “many of the access requests come from land owners within the short stretch who would like direct access to the state park from their properties.”
The organizations said they understand there are multiple factors to consider in setting speed limits and recognize that Route 110 is a major east-west highway with a fair amount of truck traffic. But the letter points out there is an unusually large amount of right-of-way width and good sight distance in the section near the park.
BIDPA has agreed to cover the cost of new signage to highlight the speed limit, and the chamber will use its social media platforms to educate the public on changes and make the transition smooth and safe.
In the meantime, the letter said the city and DOT will continue discussion about extending the urban compact line, which currently ends at the White Mountain Distributors building, another 2 miles to the park entrance.
DOT officials are agreeable because the city would then assume all responsibility for maintaining and plowing the road. The city council is trying to reach an agreement with DOT on the section being upgraded at the state’s expense either before or soon after the city would take ownership.
The city council reviewed the letter before voting Monday night to approve it and forward it to Deputy DOT Commissioner William Cass.
Community Development Director Pamela Laflamme reported that the letter has the support of major land owners on that section of Route 110.
In other business the council:
• Extended the city’s mask ordinance another month.
Mayor Paul Grenier reminded the council that when the ordinance was approved it contained a sunset clause that called for it to expire Jan. 17. He noted that the state now has a mask ordinance and said there is no need for a city ordinance.
Councilor Lucie Remillard said she did not want to send mixed messages and said she favored continuing the city ordinance as well. She proposed extending the city mask ordinance for a month to Feb. 25 but allowing for a two weeks review.
Only Councilor Russ Otis voted against the extension.
• Fire Chief Jay Watkins reported that the ladder truck will be transported by Bob Chapman to McLeod Spring and Chassis in Barre, Vt., to have the hangers that hold the rear axles replaced at a cost not to exceed $15,000. There is also some body work that must be done.
The chief said a local entity looked at the truck but did not have the equipment to do the repair work.
McLeod has both a pit and a lift to examine the undercarriage.
Watkins said the repair work will take about eight weeks. In the meantime, the city will rent a ladder truck at a cost of $5,000 a month.
• The city approved filing a letter of interest in the next round application round for a federal Transportation Alternatives Program grant.
The program is for projects focusing on alternative transportation goals, such as bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
The city, which unsuccessfully applied in the last round, will resubmit its application to install 1,760 feet of sidewalk on Hutchins Street, from Napert Village to Columbia Avenue. It would complete the sidewalk on a popular walking section in the city.
The estimated cost is about $700,000 with the city responsible for 20 percent or $143,000.
Mayor Paul Grenier said the city would have two budgets cycles to raise the money if awarded.
Community Development Director Pamela Laflamme also said the city is filing a letter of interest and is not committed to accepting the grant.