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AYER – Crossing Main Street in Ayer can be a game of chicken. So said two visitors to the Ayer Board of Selectmen’s meeting Tuesday night. The pair asked for beefed-up traffic control measures on Main and Park Street Streets to slow traffic.

Phil Berry, whose family owns several storefronts along the southern side of Main Street, said he’s concerned with the conditions of sidewalks, ramps, and crosswalks. He appealed to selectman Chairman Jim Fay to form a committee focused on improving the Main Street infrastructure.

Motorists “should slow down and the town should enforce it,” said Berry. He referenced two accidents on nearby West Main Street in which one person was killed when chasing two teens who allegedly robbed him; another was seriously injured at the same location mere months later.

“The street is crumbling,” said Berry.

DPW Superintendent Mark Wetzel said crews were due to paint crosswalks on the street but the persistent rain of late made it unfeasible. Wetzel assured the job is a high priority one for the department, which is typically performed in off-hours when traffic is lighter.

Fay asked Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand to coordinate with both the DPW and Ayer Police Department on road conditions.

Berry pointed to downtown Groton as a good example of successful traffic calming measures, with cones at the center line in crosswalks as an added visual reminder to motorists to slow down and be on the lookout for pedestrians. Berry also questioned the quality of the paint used to paint Ayer’s crosswalks.

Chuck King, owner of Fresh Ayer Sports on Park Street, is the President of the Ayer Business Alliance. King echoed Berry’s concerns. From his storefront near the T-intersection with Main Street, King said he bears witness to pedestrian close calls and near misses all the time.

King said he was “in fear that more people will get hurt. We don’t want to see that happen.” King said he saw a father pushing a carriage with two small children in it nearly get hit “not just once, but twice in a week!”

And at the Alliance’s monthly summertime car show at Depot Square, King relayed a story of the time he and a uniformed Ayer patrolman were in a crosswalk, attempting to cross Main Street. “We both almost got run over.” King said he’s seen the same scenario repeatedly downtown, with elderly pedestrians threatened by motorists while in a crosswalk.

King thanked Ayer Police Chief William Murray for “answering the call” and placing a radar device that warns motorists of their speeds along Park Street. King said the effort was somewhat effective.

King said “it’s a big sweeping turn” off Main Street onto Park Street and motorists do not break speed in the turn. “One came around at 38 miles per hour,” said King. There are marked 4-way crosswalks at that intersection. “This has got to get under control before any more people get hurt.”

On his way down to Town Hall to make his request on Tuesday night, King said “low and behold, here comes a car at 31 miles an hour. If someone’s in the crosswalk, by the time they realize what they’re doing, they’re practically running these people down.”

King asked for non-slippery paint for pedestrian crosswalks and road cones or signage in the middle of the street to warn motorists of crossing zones. “Maybe hire new cop. By the time he’s done writing tickets, he’ll pay for himself with the income.”

King invited the police chief to visit next Thursday’s Business Alliance meeting on June 14 at Billiard’s Cafe on Main Street at 6:15 p.m. to talk about the issue with downtown merchants.

Selectman Gary Luca said a traffic “calming” study was commissioned four years ago and should be on a shelf in the Economic Development Office. “Maybe we need to dust it off,” said Luca.

Luca said the last traffic study cost $30,000. Luca also suggested that speed bumps on Main Street might also be effective.

“We don’t need a speed bump,” said King. “Just make people aware.”

“But they’re coming over the [East Main Street] bridge at 40 miles an hour,” said Luca.

“Have an officer there,” countered King. “He’ll raise his salary in no time.”

Later in the meeting, Russell Anderson paid the board a return visit, renewing a request made last year to install curb cuts and fix sidewalk defects that forces those in wheelchairs into the street in order to traverse town. Anderson offered Wetzel a ride in his wheelchair for a first-hand experience of the danger and difficulties in maneuvering along the Littleton Road/Carlton Circle rotary/East Main Street artery.

Follow Mary Arata at twitter.com/maryearata.

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