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Bridge construction looms, plans in motion

  • Surveying work was underway Monday on Peterborough's Main Street bridge. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Construction on Peterborough's Main Street bridge is expected to begin in spring of 2019. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Construction on Peterborough's Main Street bridge is expected to begin in spring of 2019. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • Construction on Peterborough's Main Street bridge is expected to begin in spring of 2019. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Construction on Peterborough's Main Street bridge is expected to begin in spring of 2019. Staff photo by Ben Conant—



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, July 30, 2018 5:51PM

With final designs for the replacement of the Main Street bridge in Peterborough only months away from completion, town officials are discussing the looming reality of having the thousands of cars that enter the downtown from Route 202 diverted.

According to Selectwoman Barbara Miller, the project will be put out to bid this winter or early spring, and construction will begin spring or early summer next year, though the time frame for breaking ground is somewhat of a “moving target,” Miller said. The project is anticipated to close the bridge for up to 18 months, with a completion date of fall of 2020 anticipated.

The bridge runs over the Contoocook River, just before the intersection of Main Street and Route 202/Pine and Concord streets, and is the direct entrance to the Main Street and Grove Street shops from Route 202/Concord Street.

During construction, there will be a temporary pedestrian bridge put into place connecting Main Street and Concord Street, but it will be removed after construction of the bridge with new sidewalks is complete.

The bridge closure has been a concern of the town’s Economic Development Authority, which has been working toward solutions to keep the downtown viable with one of its main entrances cut off.

“The town is doing a wonderful strategic planning process,” said Corinne Chronopoulos, a member of the town’s Economic Development authority and library director.

Construction of an extensive new addition and renovation to the library is slated to start this fall, and overlap with the construction of the Main Street Bridge, Chronopoulos said. During the library’s construction, library operations are to move to Vose Farm Road, off Route 202. For the rest of the downtown merchants, the town is hoping to continue to direct traffic to Main and Grove Street, rather than workarounds that avoid it altogether.

According to Miller, a few weeks prior to the bridge closing, temporary traffic signals will be put in at the intersection of Route 202 and Route 101, and “wayfinding” signs directing motorists to the downtown area will be installed at intersections entering the town from Milford, Jaffrey and Keene.

“The town has plans to help to support the merchants,” Miller said. “We’ll be doing lots of events to encourage people to shop and work and play in the downtown during the bridge construction.”

“The goal is that a group of volunteers want to keep the downtown and all the Peterborough businesses booming. We want to put together a list of events and plans that will truly drive shopping and customers,” Chronopoulos said.

The group is still looking for feedback from local businesses on events that will encourage people to go into the shops, and not just come downtown, said Chronopoulos, and volunteers to assist in the events.

While motorists will have to find new ways around, so will emergency services such as the ambulance. Peterborough Fire and Rescue Chief Ed Walker said the ambulance will simply adopt the already-established alternate routes taken by the fire trucks that already have to avoid the bridge for weight limit reasons.

Walker said this will not create a “significant impact” to response times, as response times are based on an average, and the detours will only add a few minutes to travel time, though he said there has been no formal review of the actual difference in response time between the different routes.

Currently, the fire department vehicles use Summer Street and Hunt Road to access Route 202, or Grove Street, depending on which creates the faster route to their destination.

“We’ll have to adjust, but I don’t think it’ll be a significant challenge in terms of response,” Walker said. “I think what’s going to represent more of a challenge is not that we’re going that way, but that everyone’s going to be going that way, and there’s going to be a lot more traffic.”

ConVal Regional School District Superintendent Kimberly Rizzo Saunders said the district does have school buses that access the bridge, and plans to re-route them while creating the bus routes in the fall.

“There won’t be much of a delay, because we’ll start to build our bus routes knowing that work is going to happen,” said Saunders.

She said the buses that normally cross the bridge will re-route through Hunt Road and Parmelee Drive.