EATON — Peggy Wescott, who has had two cars smash into her home since 1999, feels safer now that four stop signs have been installed on a trial basis at the sharp bend of Route 153 by the Inn at Crystal Lake.
The signs were placed July 7 at the intersection of Eaton Road with Ridge and Glines Hill Road as a joint effort between the town and New Hampshire Department of Transportation. They will remain there at least until the end of the summer.
In January 2017, a man attempting to elude New Hampshire State Police smashed the pickup truck he was driving into Wescott's home. In 1999, a Chevy Blazer ended up in the home when its driver failed to negotiate the corner.
"From what I've seen it's working great," said Wescott who has lived at the home for 21 years. "I hope they keep them up."
She said they are a "wonderful thing" even if people don't fully stop but roll through more slowly than they otherwise would.
Wescott said former selectman Richard Young was among the staunchest advocates of doing safety improvements to the intersection. The board of selectmen now consists of selectmen's chair Richard Fortin, Ed Reilly and Joyce Blue.
Fortin told the Sun on Tuesday that the town and NHDOT have been "working for years and years" trying to slow the traffic down though Eaton Center.
He said they tried putting in all types of other signs and hired the Carroll County Sheriff's Office to do radar work, and the DOT lowered the speed limit to 30 mph.
"We still seemed to have issues with people going way too fast," said Fortin.
This spring, the town and NHDOT held meetings and discussed the possibility of having a four-way stop.
"It is a little unconventional with NH 153 being the main through movement, having to come to a stop and not without other possible concerns of truck turns and noise for abutters from traffic/trucks starting and stopping," Assistant DOT Commissioner Bill Cass said in an email Monday.
"In collaboration with the town we decided to give it a try on a temporary basis and see how it works. If successful, and all agree, we will look to make it a more permanent installation. We’ll be monitoring and discussing with the town through the summer."
Fortin said a public hearing was held (June 2 by Zoom), and those who would be directly affected were notified.
He said the majority of people were in favor of giving the signs a try. NHDOT wanted to do the sign experiment in the summer when the road is the busiest.
"Everybody was pretty confident that it would work," said Fortin.
"This is anecdotal, but it appears to have slowed the traffic down and seems to be working at this point."
Fortin said he's watched traffic and has seen that people are at least slowing down. Yellow and black temporary curbing was added to Eaton Road in front of the Inn at Crystal Lake to see if adjusting the curve of the road would also help slow traffic.
Another public hearing will be held at the end of August to evaluate how the signs are working, said Fortin, adding that a date for the hearing has not been set. The hearing date will be posted to the town's website, eatonnh.org. It's unclear whether it will be held by Zoom or physically at town hall.
"We'll assess the situation and get feedback from folks at that point and we will make a decision as to whether it will be a permanent arrangement or whether we will have to try something else," said Fortin.
"While some citizens on that corner were content with putting up rainbow flags that week, a far more responsible citizens group worked with our selectmen and DOT to put up stop signs to prevent the many accidents there,” said resident John Hartman.