The Londonderry Town Council has approved a traffic plan for the September primary election, with an eye on refining it before the November General Election.
Monday night, the Council heard from Police Chief Bill Hart on the plan, which is expected to alleviate traffic problems and waiting during the upcoming elections.
Town Manager Kevin Smith said he has held a number of meetings with Town Moderator Bob Sauer, Council members, and fire and police personnel.
After the primary this past January they knew they needed to do something, Smith said, adding, “We looked at what would work, what would not work.”
Smith noted that school will be in session for the Sept. 13 primary, but schools will be closed for the General Election.
Hart took the microphone to say that the central idea of the plan is a “one way in, one way out” concept.
Motorists will be told to take Day Boulevard to the gym, from which they will be directed where to park by members of ALERT (A Londonderry Emergency Response Team). The area in front of the gym will be reserved for handicap-accessible spaces, he said. After voting, ALERT members will direct voters out.
There will also be a shuttle service from Town Hall to the school’s employee parking lot, he said, noting, “We expect to use two shuttles, given Londonderry’s 25 to 30 percent voting rate.”
For the primary, residents using the shuttle will be dropped off in front of the gym, he said. For the general election they will be dropped off at the far end of the parking lot, for a short walk to the gym.
Hart said his department has invested in “huge, LEGO-like structures” and will use them instead of traffic cones to block off and guide traffic.
There will be four police officers, at Pillsbury Road, Matthew Thornton Elementary School, Day Boulevard and at the north entrance to the high school, he said.
“We will use both ALERT personnel and police,” Hart said.
In addition, Hart said, town employees and volunteers will be asked to park at Town Hall and take the shuttle or park in the back parking lot at Matthew Thornton.
Use of the shuttle will be encouraged, Hart said, noting, “It is better to wait five minutes and take the shuttle than to wait 30 minutes to get a parking space.”
There will be an extensive public information campaign, including Web site announcements and publishing the traffic map in local media, Hart said.
Hart listed other suggestions to expedite the process, including:
• Registering to vote early, at the Town Office or in Supervisor of the Checklist sessions;
• Voting during non-peak times; and
• “If you’re not voting, don’t use Mammoth Road.”
Council Chair John Farrell observed that Mammoth Road is a state road and the town has no authority to close it.
“There will be delays,” Hart said. “I strongly suggest an alternate route.”
Resident Mary Wing Soares asked if people would be allowed to park at Matthew Thornton and Hart said the front lot will be open for voters. “But you will have to walk,” he said.
Resident Jay Hooley asked, “With the level of your constituency, have you given any thought to going to two voting places?”
Farrell said the matter is under study at the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office. But he said, “We will incur the expense of new voting machines.”
Hooley encouraged the Council to take a fresh look at a second polling place before the 2020 election.
Hart said the traffic plan will be on the town Web site at www.londonderrynh.org and paper copies will be available at the primary to help residents prepare for the General Election.
“We will take some of the ideas we want to use in the General Election and test them in the primary,” he said.
Hart reemphasized the public education piece, saying, “Our success or failure depends on getting the information out between now and the General Election.
“There will still be delays,” Hart warned. “It is physically impossible to get this number of voters into the parking lot, to park, spend 20 to 30 minutes inside, and to get out easily.”
“There is no silver bullet,” Smith agreed, and even with the new plan, it’s not unreasonable to expect some delays. He compared the situation to trying to get out of a Friday night football game or an event at the Verizon Wireless Arena.