Duffy would be glad roundabout plan nixed

We believe Duffy would be pleased.

Duffy Monahon of Peterborough, who along with her husband, Rick, died in a tragic car crash in January, was a whirlwind whenever a local issue got her attention. She was quick to take action, to make lots of phone calls, to visit the local newspaper, to mount a campaign.

One of her causes was staunch opposition to having a roundabout at the three-way intersection by the Peterborough Town Library. In 2010, the Select Board approved a proposal for reconstruction of the Main Street bridge and repair of the retaining wall between Pine Street and the Contoocook River. The plan, which was submitted to the N.H. Department of Transportation for review, included an oval-shaped rotary at the intersection.

The very idea of a rotary was anathema to Duffy, and she didn’t hesitate to make her feelings known. In October 2011, Duffy. Sheila Kirkpatrick and their fellow Heritage Commission members gathered 669 signatures on a petition opposing the plan. And Duffy didn’t hesitate to stand up a month later in Putnam Park with a sign opposing the plan during an “Day of Action for the 99%” rally. She wasn’t shy about promoting her ideas, and while she didn’t always succeed, she seemed to always enjoy the fight.

And with the roundabout, the battle appears to have been won. Last week, the Select Board unanimously agreed to go along with a N.H. Department of Transportation recommendation to drop the plan for a roundabout. The roundabout would have required a time consuming permitting process, which might have involved land acquisition challenges. But the key factor is that there are now fewer state and federal funds available, and those are being targeted toward essential safety elements, according to Peterborough Public Works Director Rodney Bartlett. For Peterborough, that means rebuilding the deteriorating retaining wall and replacing the outdated Main Street Bridge, which now has a 15 ton weight limit, should be the top priorities.

Now the town can move ahead with design and permitting for the Main Street Bridge itself, which the state is proposing to replace “in-kind,” with a structure very similar to the current bridge. Bartlett said last week that the earliest construction could start would be three years from now, in the spring of 2016.

It will be important to take advantage of those three years to come up with a good plan to protect the businesses of downtown Peterborough that will be affected when the bridge is closed. When the roundabout was on the table, the plan called for a phased construction schedule that would allow drivers to continue to cross the river into downtown. That won’t be possible with an in-kind replacement, according to Bartlett. So drivers coming down Concord Street from the north will have to continue down to Route 101, cross the river on that road, and backtrack into town on Grove Street. That’s an inconvenience for sure, but it won’t be an especially long detour.

Back in 2010, suggestions for a temporary bridge, or even a permanent second bridge over the river, were brought up. Those ideas have been deemed impractical, especially given the financial straits the state is under. But it will be important to meet with residents and merchants and listen to them. Maybe there are practical suggestions that can ease the burden for downtown businesses and workers.

As for the aesthetics of the in-kind replacement bridge, we’re confident the Historic Commission and other residents will be scrutinizing the plans carefully. They have to carry on Duffy’s legacy.

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