Hampton Beach Master Plan: Transportation Recommendations
As a result of the circulation pattern created by the roadway network and the high density of parking along the beach during peak summertime conditions, Hampton Beach faces significant circulation and parking problems. These problems include the following:
along Ocean Boulevard
- Congested beach access and egress
- Lack of convenient and manageable parking
- Traffic congestion due to vehicular "cruising"
- Significant pedestrian activity
- Provision of a safe environment for multiple users (vehicles, pedestrians, bicycles, etc.)
- Back ups at parking areas on weekend mornings due to money collection
This section proposes strategies and recommendations to address these issues and improve transportation conditions for Hampton Beach visitors and residents.
Many of the recommendations herein address local traffic issues of Hampton Beach. The regional traffic issues, such as access from Route 101 and points north and south on Route 1A extend into other towns and south to the State Line. Access from Route 101 has been greatly improved by the recent widening of this highway and interchange improvements. Access and egress issues from this direction are most critical near the beach. Route 1A to the north does not appear to pose traffic operations concerns, however, through the public involvement process, issues have been raised with respect to the operations of the signalized intersection of Route 1A and Route 286 in Seabrook. This intersection is located near the State Line approximately 2.5 miles south of the Hampton River. At a minimum, signal timings should be evaluated and optimized to enhance traffic operations. In addition, the Town of Seabrook, with the Rockingham County Regional Planning Commission could apply for CMAQ funds to construct improvements at this location.
Additional data and analysis such as a random survey or license plate survey will need to be conducted to quantify the volume of circulating traffic and support the proposed transportation improvements. Furthermore, there are on-going plans and projects that should be continued. They include, but are not limited to, the development of multi-modal visitor facilities along the Coastal Byway by NH DRED and NH OSP, and the seawall/sidewalk improvements along Ocean Boulevard.
A future transportation plan, referred as the "50-year Vision" for Hampton Beach, provides a foundation for transportation strategies. Key elements recommended as part of the 50-year transportation vision include the following:
- Reconstruct the Route 1A bridge over Hampton River to allow greater clearance for boats and reduce vehicular congestion by reduce the number of bridge openings.
- Reconstruct Ocean Boulevard to provide one northbound lane; re-stripe parking along the beach; provide 15-foot sidewalks; designate commercial loading zones, and provide bike lanes.
- Reconstruct Ashworth Avenue to provide travel in two directions with one lane each way and one middle turning lane, and a sidewalk on each side.
- An improved one-way circulation on minor streets connecting Ashworth Avenue and Ocean Boulevard.
- Reconstruct intersections at beach entrance and exit locations.
- Install additional traffic signals at key locations along Ocean Boulevard and Ashworth Avenue.
- Provide pedestrian crossing areas along Ocean Boulevard along with several pavilions (Possibly close off Ocean Boulevard during peak beach times).
- Encourage and provide additional off-beach parking.
- Improve directional, informational, and regulatory signage.
These measures are shown on Figure 30 and described in detail below. They are not organized by phase or priority since many of them occur during two or three of the phase periods. However, a matrix at the end of this section identifies specific actions and times.
Strategy 1. Reconstruct the Bridge over Hampton River (Mid-term Improvement)
Today, the existing drawbridge over the Hampton River causes vehicular delays on Route 1A at the south end of the study area. This delay extends back to the Ashworth Avenue / Ocean Boulevard "u-turn" intersection creating added congestion to the one-way loop system. Boats also experience delays waiting for the bridge to open. According to the NHDOT District office, which maintains this bridge, it is raised up to 15 times per hour during peak boating season. To address this issue, the grade of the roadway leading to the bridge should be raised and the bridge reconstructed with sufficient clearance to allow the majority of the boats to pass under. This will reduce the frequency of raising the bridge, relieve traffic congestion southbound, and improve traffic conditions at Ocean Boulevard/Ashworth Avenue.
The reconstruction of this bridge can be recommended through the Regional Planning Commission and the MPO for inclusion in the State’s Ten Year Plan. With community support, solicitation for the project can begin in the winter of 2002. With continued support and representation from the town to the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Intermodal Transportation (GACIT), the project can be classified as high priority and be placed on the Ten Year Plan. This is a lengthy process, but the benefits associated with this type of large-scale improvement cannot be overlooked. Although it may take a long time to complete the permitting, design, and construction of the bridge, the process should began in the first phase of the Plan implementation.
A new bridge can also improve existing needs and activities. It should have sufficient width to accommodate a bike lane for bicyclists to travel safely along Route 1A, and a designated area for people to fish. Currently, bicyclists have to contend with automobiles in unsafe conditions, and people fishing and their fishing gear impede pedestrians.
Strategy 2. Reconstruct Ocean Boulevard (Long -term Improvement)
The portion of Ocean Boulevard between Island Path and Duston Avenue/Dover Avenue currently provides two lanes in the northbound direction. Four to eight-foot sidewalks are provided on both sides of the street, but no separate facilities are provided for bicycles. Ocean Boulevard forms a one-way couplet with Ashworth Avenue, which provides two travel lanes in the southbound direction. This roadway configuration creates a circulation pattern in the vicinity of Hampton Beach that contributes to (and almost encourages) the vehicular "cruising" along the beach. Vehicles "cruise" the beach to find parking spaces or just for fun, resulting in vehicular-pedestrian conflicts and unnecessary traffic congestion on Ocean Boulevard.
It is recommended that Ocean Boulevard be reconstructed to provide one vehicular travel lane in the northbound direction and an exclusive bicycle lane over the short term. In addition, the number of parking spaces along the beach should be reduced, and removed where possible, to provide 15-foot sidewalks. Reconstruction of Ocean Boulevard would include geometric improvements to the sidewalks, curbing, crosswalks, and the roadway to provide safe passage for bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists.
The elimination of parking revenue, however, would have to be compensated for with other sources of revenue, such as increased RV fees or meter rates, or from concessionaries at the State Park parking lots. Parking at the edge of the beach could be directed to less-utilized parking areas, such as the State Park lot or at lots along Ashworth Avenue, or remote parking areas. The use of remote lots and a shuttle is encourages during major events such as is done now during the annual Seafood Festival in September.
To achieve the desired cross section for motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians, on-street parking may have to be eliminated along portions of Ocean Boulevard (see Figures 31 and 32). These improvements would discourage cruising and provide a more attractive, pedestrian and bicycle-friendly environment along the beach.
Carrying this concept one step further, the town could explore with the NHDOT the possibility of closing portions of Ocean Boulevard on weekends during the peak season. Vehicles could still access businesses and residences by "looping" around side streets, and using designated drop-off and loading zones. This arrangement is described below in the recommendation for pedestrian crossing areas.
Since Ocean Boulevard (Route 1A) is outside the Town’s Urban Compact, this project would be eligible for inclusion in the State’s Ten Year Plan. In addition, since the focus of the improvements is to enhance the area for pedestrians and bicyclists, the project is a good candidate for Transportation Enhancement (TE) and/or Congestion Management and Air Quality (CMAQ) funds available under the TEA-21 program that is administered by the NH DOT.
Strategy 3. Reconstruct Ashworth Avenue
Ashworth Avenue is a two-lane, one-way roadway for vehicles traveling in the southbound direction. As mentioned, Ashworth Avenue forms a one-way couplet with Ocean Boulevard, contributing to vehicular cruising along Hampton Beach. The sidewalks along Ashworth Avenue are not well defined, and the roadway is currently in need of repair.
To address these issues, it is recommended that Ashworth Avenue be reconstructed as a two-way street with three travel lanes (including one center turn lane) and sidewalks on both sides of the street. The final lane arrangement, be it two-lane with left turn pockets at key locations or the suggested three-lane cross section, needs to be determined with additional traffic data collection and analysis. The current average daily traffic volumes in one direction on Ashworth, coupled with new northbound traffic indicates that a center turn lane will be required to allow turning vehicles to move out of through travel lanes.
Ashworth Avenue is situated within a 40-foot right-of-way and primarily consists of 30 feet of travel way with eight to ten foot paved shoulders. Two of the more restrictive areas along the roadway, with respect to structures close to the right-of-way, are between M and N Street, and F and G Street, with just over 55 feet between buildings. The proposed improvements would provide a cross section of 48-feet from the back of sidewalk to back of sidewalk. This would require acquisition of four feet of land on both sides of the street and possibly full acquisition of some parcels.
Reconstruction of Ashworth Avenue, in combination with Ocean Boulevard improvements, would discourage vehicular cruising, improve circulation by increasing flexibility and mobility, and provide a safer environment for vehicles and pedestrians. As a result, Ashworth Avenue would carry a higher percentage of motorists, and Ocean Boulevard would become a more pedestrian-friendly environment.
Strategy 4. One-Way Circulation on Side Streets
The side streets that connect Ocean Boulevard to Ashworth Avenue in the vicinity of Hampton Beach are very narrow (generally less than 30 feet wide) and there are often multiple cars parked along these streets. Currently all side streets, except B, D, G, I and K Streets provide one-way traffic westbound. To improve circulation and safety, it is recommended that these streets be studied in more detail and in connection with Ashworth Avenue and Ocean Boulevard improvements to provide a more efficient alternating one-way travel. A suggested one-way roadway pattern is shown on Figure 30 and summarized below.
B and C Streets
F, G, and H Streets
J and K Streets
M and N Streets
P and Q Streets
The circulation pattern shown in Figure 30 provides six eastbound streets and eleven westbound streets. A greater number of westbound movements are provided to facilitate traffic movements away from the beach during peak summertime conditions. This pattern may provide improved circulation and safety for moving vehicles and parking vehicles as well as pedestrians.
Strategy 5. Reconstruct Intersections at Beach Entrance/Exit Locations (Mid-term Improvement)
A large percentage of the traffic enters and exits the study area via the intersections of Church Street/Ocean Boulevard and Highland Avenue/Ocean Boulevard (see Figure 33). Because of significant constraints presented by environmentally sensitive areas to the west of Hampton Beach, it is difficult to provide alternate measures of access and egress from this direction. However, if additional off-street parking is provided on the lots off Ashworth Avenue, access and egress from the west would be encouraged to use Brown Avenue. Beyond that alternative, efforts should be focused on improving current entrances and exits.
Because the capacity of these locations is limited, geometric improvements are recommended. Physical improvements at Church Street/Ocean Boulevard would likely require property acquisition to provide a sufficient roadway cross section on Church Street and to construct turn lanes on Ocean Boulevard. Signalization is recommended to improve operations at the intersection of Highland Avenue/Ocean Boulevard. Providing one-way (eastbound) circulation only on Highland Avenue (discussed above) facilitates beach access from Route 101. These improvements would enhance operations, provide better access to and from the beach, and provide safe pedestrian crossing locations.
Geometric and safety improvements are also recommended for the intersections of Ashworth Avenue/Ocean Boulevard (Route 1A)/Duston Avenue/Dover Avenue and Route 1A/State Park Drive. These locations experience the highest level of congestion, and analyses indicate the poorest level of operations. For example, the intersection of Ashworth/Ocean/Duston/Dover experiences significant delays during summer peak hours due to the high volume of southbound "u-turns" (southbound Ashworth Avenue to northbound Ocean Boulevard) that occur. Improvements at these two intersections should focus on improved traffic channelization, lane arrangements, and traffic control. Sufficient area appears to be available within the Route 1A right-of-way to complete physical changes at these locations while not significantly impacting abutting properties. Signalization and intersection reconstruction would significantly improve the safety and operations at these two locations.
Strategy 6. Install Additional Traffic Signals
One traffic signal is provided along Route 1A at High Street on the northern end of North Beach. In the vicinity of Hampton Beach, there are currently no signalized intersections along Ocean Boulevard or Ashworth Avenue. To improve safety along these corridors, further analysis and potential signalization are recommended at the following locations:
- Route 1A/State Park Drive (noted above)
- Ashworth Avenue/Ocean Boulevard (Route 1A)/Duston Avenue/Dover Avenue (noted above)
- Ashworth Avenue/Riverview Terrace/M Street
- Ashworth Avenue/Keefe Avenue/I Street
- Ashworth Avenue/D Street
- Ashworth Avenue/Island Path
- Ocean Boulevard/Highland Avenue (noted above).
The proposed locations for traffic signalization are shown on Figure 34. Providing signals at these seven locations would improve operations and safety for Hampton Beach visitors and residents.
Strategy 7. Pedestrian Crossing Areas along Ocean Boulevard
Since significant pedestrian activity occurs on Ocean Boulevard, it is important to provide a pedestrian-friendly environment. To improve pedestrian safety, the long-term improvement plan includes the designation of full-block pedestrian areas along Ocean Boulevard. The width of each pedestrian crossing area will enable large volumes of pedestrians to cross Ocean Boulevard safely. Variable surface crosswalks or raised crosswalks constructed of brick, stone, or an aggregate concrete would provide a clear distinction of the walkway, provide a traffic calming effect, and improved safety.
Specific locations for these areas would have to be developed through careful thought and consideration of the traffic patterns, businesses, relationship with other pedestrian areas, and other characteristics of the streets and uses. For example, two areas may be appropriate individually, but they may be too close to each other. Some area businesses, such as hotels and restaurants, may need scheduled delivery times for service trucks.
As a way to illustrate the principle of several pedestrian areas and associated pavilions, three locations are shown in Figure 30 and listed below:
- Block between A Street and B Street
- Block between D Street and F Street
- Block between I Street and J Street.
The locations identified for pedestrian crossing areas are evenly spaced along the most highly trafficked portions of Hampton Beach. These locations are high activity areas due to the Seashell Stage, the restroom facilities, retail uses, and close proximity to off-beach parking lots. Providing distinct pedestrian crossing areas along Ocean Boulevard separates vehicular and pedestrian activity and provides a safer environment for all users. Signalization of these pedestrian crossings results in even greater safety benefits.
Pedestrian crossing improvements can be implemented over a period, with short-term improvements focused on providing clear crossing areas with variable finishes and sufficient width to pass the volume of pedestrians. These locations can be enhanced over time, eventually achieving the long-term vision.
Strategy 8. Encourage and Provide Additional Off-Beach Parking
Parking is currently located along the beach as well as in several off-beach lots. As part of the 50-year Vision, it is recommended that some of the on-beach parking be eliminated. Thus, off-beach parking must be enhanced and encouraged. It is recommended that policies or programs be established to encourage or direct visitors to park in remote parking areas, and as necessary, to proceed to on-street parking. The number of parking spaces can be increased at the State Park lot by reorganizing it, and should be expanded at other off-site lots where possible.
It is likely that additional off-beach parking areas will also be needed. A potential site for construction of a new parking deck structure is Town parking lot, next to the police station at the corner of Brown Avenue and Ashworth Avenue (see Figure 30). This site is centrally located and a convenient walking distance (within two tenths of a mile) from the beach. Another location is further north off Highland Avenue.
Since it costs nearly $10,000 per parking space for structured parking, the desire would be to locate areas that create efficient parking layouts. Ideally two-way aisles with parking on both sides, creating parking "bays" of 60 feet would be developed. The two areas noted are of sufficient size to create parking decks with dimensions in multiples of 60 feet.
Another option would be to designate remote (existing) parking areas and provide a shuttle bus service. The shuttle bus service could transport people to and from parking areas, the beach, and other attractions. With the reconstruction of Ocean Boulevard, designated shuttle bus stops could be provided along the beach. This alternative may require the implementation of the circulation and mobility improvements noted above.
Strategy 9. Improved Signage
An immediate, low cost improvement to the traffic issues at Hampton Beach is the installation of new and improved directional and regulatory signage. They could be planned in conjunction with improved private signage and/or exclusively for transportation enhancement. In particular, improved directional signage should be provided for destinations on Route 1, Interstate 95, and Route 101. Signage associated with parking lots, specifically noting full lots or availability of spaces for both on-street parking and lots, would also improve traffic circulation. For example, automated signs that provide information to drivers such as "Parking Lot A Full, Go to Lot B" could be employed. This would both minimize confusion and reduce the number of cars that "shop" for parking spaces close to the beach.
In addition, improvements should be made to pedestrian and bicycle signage. Pedestrian and bicycle signage can be directional and regulatory, and would improve the safety for all beach users. Examples include "Walk/Don’t Walk" and Pedestrian Crossing" signs to alert pedestrians and drivers of designated crossing areas.
A long-term strategy would be to establish signage policy and design guidelines. They would identify themes, structural elements, and other methods to provide signage that is appropriate and functional. Examples of areas with established design guidelines include Manchester, New Hampshire, Burlington, Vermont, the Connecticut River Byway, and many beachfront cities in Florida.
Strategy 10. Enact changes to parking and transportation on the beachfront.
Presently, most day trippers to Hampton Beach choose to drive along the beachfront, park there for $1.50 per hour, walk a short distance to the beach from their cars. While this arrangement is undeniably convenient for visitors, it creates a high volume of automobile traffic on streets that have many pedestrians, fills the visual environment with cars, and encourages re-circulation of vehicles and cruising along the oceanfront.
Automated centralized parking meters that provide tickets for display in car windows could be employed at some of the parking lots. Similar systems have proven to work well in Florida. This type of system would save the state operational money by reducing time and staff that are necessary to write tickets and remove coins from the meters. It would also replace mechanically operated meters that are used at every parking space along Ocean Boulevard, thus reducing the cost of maintenance, and seasonal storage, removal and placement of the meters.
One method to reduce automobile traffic along the beachfront would be to raise parking prices substantially for spaces close to the beach or to reduce the number of parking spaces on the oceanfront. However, reducing that number of spaces would create demand for more parking at other spaces. A short-term solution would be to expand existing public and private lots or create new lots that are located away from the main beach areas, and run shuttle buses to the beach.
The combination of transportation improvements described in the strategies above comprises the 50-year Vision for Hampton Beach. To meet future demands at Hampton Beach, the ultimate goal is to complete all of the improvements described above. To reach this goal, it is recommended that interim improvements be implemented that will eventually lead to the 50-year plan. For example, improvements that are low in cost and easy to complete can be implemented immediately, while more extensive improvements can be planned for the mid- to long-term future. Table 24 summarizes the recommended 50-year Vision improvements in terms of short, medium, and long-term projects.