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Peterborough

Downtown roundabout plan killed

Main Street Bridge at library to get less costly fix

  • Main Street Bridge, Peterborough<br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)
  • Main Street Bridge, Peterborough<br/>(Staff photo by Dave Anderson)

PETERBOROUGH — A proposal to build a roundabout at the intersection of Route 202 and Main Street next to the town library will be withdrawn, after the Select Board learned that the N.H. Department of Transportation feels the plan would be too costly and take too long to complete.

“This is a dramatic change,” DPW Director Rodney Bartlett told board members at their meeting on Tuesday. “We need to simplify the project and move forward.”

An engineering study submitted to the state in August 2011 called for replacing and widening the Main Street Bridge, with a phased construction schedule that would enable the bridge to remain open while work was being done. The design included an oval-shaped roundabout at the three-way intersection by the library, where Main Street meets Concord Street and Pine Street. Concord and Pine streets are both part of Route 202, and the project also included stabilization of the retaining wall along Pine Street. The total project was estimated to cost $7.1 million in 2011, with much of the money coming from state and federal funds.

The plan drew considerable opposition when the Select Board first recommended it, with about 500 people signing a petition against a roundabout that was circulated by Heritage Commission members

Several considerations have now prompted the Department of Transportation to recommend a simple “in-kind” replacement of the bridge and no major changes to the layout of the intersection.

Bartlett said both the state and federal highway agencies have funding challenges.

“It’s become clear that they will no longer support a design solely for the purpose of improving an asset,” Bartlett said. The proposal on file, which called for the roundabout and a wider bridge, fits that category. Building a roundabout would also require a permitting process that could take up to three years, especially if any land needed to be acquired by eminent domain.

Town officials are also concerned about the stability of the retaining wall along Pine Street.

“It appears there is some additional movement there,” Bartlett told the Select Board. He said the wall is in no danger of collapsing, but it would be good to start the repairs as soon as possible.

The Department of Transportation’s proposal for in-kind replacement of the bridge and repair of the retaining wall was estimated to be $5.8 million in 2011, Bartlett said. The wall repairs will be totally funded with state and federal money and the bridge will be 80 percent state and federal funded. In 2011, the cost for an in-kind replacement of the bridge was estimated at $2.75 million, Bartlett said, with the town expected to pay 20 percent.

A disadvantage of the new plan is that it will require a detour for drivers coming from the north who want to get to downtown.

“We’ll need to work with the downtown merchants as best we can,” Select Board Chair Barbara Miller said at Tuesday’s meeting.

The new proposal would not address any improvements to traffic flow at the three-way intersection. Bartlett said the intersection is the responsibility of the state, which has been opposed to having any traffic lights there.

He said the town might want to investigate the possibility of a pedestrian footbridge that could run from the library parking lot across the Contoocook River near the bridge. That might allow the replacement bridge to be built with a sidewalk on only one side, which would allow the traffic lanes on the bridge to be a bit wider.

“There are a lot of details we still need to work through,” Bartlett said. “There will be many opportunities for people to give us feedback.”

The board voted unanimously to accept the Department of Transportation recommendation, a decision endorsed by Heritage Commission member Sheila Kirkpatrick, who was at the meeting.

“This seems like a very good idea from the historic viewpoint,” Kirkpatrick said.

“I think we’ve made quite a few people happy today,” said Miller.

On Wednesday, Bartlett said the Select Board could have chosen to continue to pursue the roundabout proposal, but with the state unwilling to fund it, that alternative would have added $1.3 million in cost to the town.

Bartlett said the likely detour for drivers coming from the north who want to get downtown would be to have them bear left on Pine Street to Granite Street, go to the intersection with Route 101, turn right on 101 toward Grove Street and take Grove Street north back into town.

The detour would add about 1.4 miles.

“Clearly we have a significant task of outreach to the merchants downtown,” Bartlett said. “There will be an impact, we want to help mitigate that.”

Moving ahead with the less costly simple replacement of the bridge would allow a design and permitting process to start this year and run through 2015, according to Bartlett. The majority of the work could be done in the construction season between March and November in 2016, which is when a detour would be needed, with finishing touches done the following year.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

Did anyone consider a more compact mini-roundabout?

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