By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM, N.H. — Shoppers flocking to local stores this long holiday weekend may have noticed fewer traffic backups along heavily traveled Route 28.
That’s because Salem has received permission from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation to coordinate several state-operated traffic lights with town-run lights, providing much smoother traffic flow, according to Town Manager Keith Hickey.
The DOT has agreed to turn over control of one of the lights — at the intersection of Route 28 and Rockingham Park Boulevard — to the town, Hickey said. Selectmen are scheduled to consider the agreement between the town and the state when they meet at 7 p.m. Monday.
With the holiday season approaching, Hickey said the change was implemented Nov. 21, before the busy retail corridor was flooded with shoppers on a daily basis.
Traffic congestion on Route 28 has been a hot topic in town for years. Town officials thought part of the problem would be resolved when all lights were connected to its new Intelligent Traffic System, or ITS, a few years ago, Hickey said.
Traffic flow was much improved, but the DOT asked that some of the lights be disconnected from that system because it had not granted its approval. The DOT recently gave that approval and also allowed the town to take full control of the light at Route 28 and Rockingham Park Boulevard, Hickey said.
Selectmen’s Chairman Everett McBride Jr. praised the move.
“That light hasn’t been (working) properly since at least last summer,” he told selectmen this week. “I think it’s the right thing to do.”
The town recently received more than two dozen complaints from motorists unhappy with traffic backups there. Correcting the problem before the holidays was significant, McBride said.
“You can’t have those lights not working around the Christmas season,” McBride said.
Two other state-owned traffic lights to be synchronized with the town’s lights are those at the entrances to Mall Road and Rockingham Park, Hickey said.