Traffic concerns could bring changes to road races
Selectmen react following three complaints lodged after race
By Kyle Stucker
Hampton Union, March 7, 2014
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON — New concerns and complaints have surfaced about the impact and safety of large road races in Hampton, and local officials say they will take extra measures to ensure an upcoming marathon doesn't cause any problems.
Selectmen Dick Nichols and Mary-Louise Woolsey said Monday that the annual Half at the Hamptons caused "inconveniences" to local residents, specifically those trying to navigate the intersection of Woodland and Little River roads.
Nichols said "three complaints total" were received about the 1,200-runner half marathon on Feb. 23, including one resident who said he or she was "stuck" at that intersection for "37 minutes."
While Nichols admitted the problems during the Half at the Hamptons were "not a huge deal," he said more can be done to improve the overall impact of races because the Half at the Hamptons wasn't mentioned through Hampton's nonemergency notification system and no notice about the race was posted on the town's Web site. Nichols and other residents also reported that they didn't receive the customary fliers alerting them to the race and its intended route.
"It wasn't like there were problems all over town," said Nichols, who along with the rest of the selectmen reviewed and approved on Jan. 13 the routes for the Half at the Hamptons and the Oct. 5 Smuttynose Rockfest half marathon. "I'm bringing it up because as we head toward the October race, (the lack of alerts) could impact the inconvenience factor with the community."
Complaints and concerns last fall about large races' impacts on the community recently led to significant changes to the route of the annual Smuttynose Rockfest half marathon.
The race organizers, Loco Sports, announced last fall that the full marathon portion of the event would be canceled due to the concerns, which surfaced not long after two cyclists were killed and two others were injured during a non-competitive event in September.
Loco Sports officials later announced at a Jan. 13 selectmen's meeting, though, that they were working to organize a different Hampton marathon to make sure Hampton didn't completely lose a popular event that brings in significant revenue for local businesses. The route for the new marathon wouldn't use side Hampton roads, but rather start in the heart of Hampton Beach before sending its runners up Ocean Boulevard into North Hampton, organizers said at the time.
Loco hasn't announced final plans for the marathon, which at one point was slated for Oct. 26. Runners can currently only register for a half marathon version of the Rockfest.
Woolsey, a Little River Road resident who has been a vocal critic of the various race-related impacts on her road and other tertiary streets, said there is "no excuse for having people sit in their cars for half an hour."
"I'm tired of the inconvenience this has had on the public," she said. "(Cars) cannot — cannot — be stopped for long periods of time."
Nichols said Hampton should make their communication efforts for the Rockfest and the October marathon a "10" on "a scale of 1 to 10" to eliminate problems. He suggested the town use its electronic road signs this fall to raise awareness about the races in addition to making sure the events are included in the town's alert system and that Loco Sports "makes a very wide distribution of the mailers" in advance of the events.