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Deaths may spur overhaul of bridge

HAMPTON, N.H. — A crash that killed two cyclists from Massachusetts in Hampton, N.H., last month has sparked renewed interest in overhauling the Neil Underwood Bridge.

Darriean Hess, 19, of Seabrook, is charged with two counts of negligent homicide and two counts of assault in connection with the crash.

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The Portsmouth Herald reported that participants in a regional planning meeting discussed the crash and their concerns about the bridge, which spans the Hampton River. State Senator Nancy Stiles, of Hampton, said the crash showed the drawbridge is not wide enough and suggested a study be done to determine how to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety and curb traffic backups.

State Representative Fred Rice, Republican of Hampton, said bottlenecks are unavoidable as the bridge goes from two lanes in either direction to one lane. It gets worse, he said, when boat traffic is heavy. ‘‘The bridge goes up and the bridge goes down and the bridge goes up and the bridge goes down — whenever a boat seems to want to do it,’’ Rice said.

Exeter’s town planner, Sylvia von Aulock, was one of the riders in the Sept. 21 Granite State Wheelmen century ride. Police said an unlicensed Hess was speeding when she crossed the center line and hit a group of cyclists.

Pamela Wells, 60, of South Hamilton, Mass., and Elise Bouchard, 52, of Danvers, Mass., died. Two other cyclists were injured.

Von Aulock said the tragedy should focus attention on building roads to accommodate bikes and pedestrians, as well as cars.

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