Residents offer mixed feedback on Jaffrey roundabout plan Wednesday night

  • Residents speak at a public hearing at the Jaffrey VFW on Wednesday to take feedback on a proposal to build two roundabouts in downtown Jaffrey. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Residents speak at a public hearing at the Jaffrey VFW on Wednesday to take feedback on a proposal to build two roundabouts in downtown Jaffrey. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Residents speak at a public hearing at the Jaffrey VFW on Wednesday to take feedback on a proposal to build two roundabouts in downtown Jaffrey. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Residents speak at a public hearing at the Jaffrey VFW on Wednesday to take feedback on a proposal to build two roundabouts in downtown Jaffrey. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/2/2019 9:29:00 PM

Residents offered mixed reviews of a New Hampshire Department of Transportation plan to build two roundabouts in downtown Jaffrey during the final public hearing for the traffic improvement project Wednesday night.

While some residents praised the project for its goal of alleviating downtown traffic congestion other residents criticized the project for its plans to take private property, demolish at least two buildings and divert traffic away from Main Street.

The project is proposed to be built by NH DOT using a combination of state and federal funds. It would include a five-exit roundabout at the intersection of Route 124 and Route 202/Peterborough Street, and a three-exit roundabout on Route 202/River Street. Both roundabouts would be a single lane, and would be connected by a new bridge built over the Contoocook River, allowing traffic to bypass the Main Street connector to the two halves of Route 202.

Because there would be fewer cars passing through Main Street, the state would eliminate turning lanes, and use the additional space to create wider sidewalks and on-street parking on Main Street and at the River Street intersection.

The proposal would ease traffic congestion on Main Street during its peak traffic hours, according to DOT officials.

Before construction, which would begin in 2022, the proposal has to be approved by the state’s executive council. Council members were present during a public hearing – the last chance for public input before the council will deliberate on the matter – at the Jaffrey VFW on Wednesday night, where they heard from both detractors and proponents of the idea.

Calming traffic, improving safety

Some residents said the roundabouts would improve the traffic conditions downtown, and make it more attractive.

“I think this moment is a moment Jaffrey is at a crossroads,” Doug Ley, a state representative for Jaffrey and School Street resident said.

Ley said the bigger sidewalks and improved look of downtown, coupled with the construction of the Park Theatre, which is expected to be completed this spring, would make the downtown a draw.

“It will change the way Jaffrey looks and assist in making it a destination, rather than a place you drive through,” Ley said.

“This should create a boost for local businesses,” said Ken Campbell, a resident of Mountain Road. “It will revitalize downtown, and improve safety for students, drivers and pedestrians.”

Some residents said they saw the roundabouts as a boost for pedestrian safety. Crosswalks would no longer have a dedicated light, but be placed about a car length before the entrances to the roundabouts, and have a concrete island in the road center, so pedestrians could cross one lane of traffic at a time. Some residents said this was a safer option than the current system, while others said they preferred a system in which stoplights ensure traffic stops, over the continuous movement of a roundabout.

Several residents said they would support more parking in the Main Street area, but suggested slanted parking – that would provide more spaces – is preferred over parallel.

Diverting traffic, seizing property

Other residents opposed the proposition. Despite a state demonstration held in ConVal High School’s parking lot in Peterborough in the fall of 2018 that set up the proposed roundabout’s dimensions and showed tractor-trailers, hauling vehicles, emergency vehicles and school buses could navigate the dimensions, some residents said roundabouts would cause problems for trucking traffic.

Cliff Pelissier of Apollo Steel said his trucks don’t have a problem navigating the current downtown.

“If you put in a roundabout, there’s going to be a problem,” he said.

Kelly Jean of Jaffrey said her property at 19 River Street would be impacted by the project, and wasn’t satisfied by the prospect of restitution, saying her homeownership was “priceless” to her.

“What I have is already a postage stamp,” Jean said. “I’m going to have a roundabout in my driveway.”

The project would require a portion of several properties without impacting the homes or businesses, but would also require the purchase and demolition of the Lab ‘n Lager pub on Main Street and an apartment building on River Street to accommodate the connecting bridge.

Jean said she didn’t support the loss of those two buildings, saying the town needs those affordable rental apartments.

Others protested the loss of the pub, saying part of a walkable downtown – one of the stated goals of the project – is to have destinations to attract visitors.

Written statements and other exhibits may be submitted to the commission determining the necessity of the Jaffrey projects up to 10 days following Wednesday’s hearing. Comments may be sent to Peter Stammas at The State of New Hampshire, Department of Transportation, P.O. Box 483, Concord, 03302. Written comments will be accepted into the record and given equal weight to verbal comments given during Wednesday’s hearing.

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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