Pelham - Windham News | March 9, 2012 - 3 The Roundabouts Are Coming to Pelham: Part 1
As the traffic studies show, the new roundabouts were not the reason for the push by Selectmen to build a new fire station. A new station is not required to build the roundabouts. Yet, the roundabouts and the fire station have become linked in the minds of Pelham residents.
In fact, the fire station had been identified as deficient in a 2002 Master Plan, and plans for a new station have been in the works since that time. There have been several attempts over past years to get voter approval for building a new station, all of which have failed so far. Town officials have long since recognized that the roundabout project would significantly affect the station’s ability to serve the town.
Te NH DOT’s illustration of the roundabouts
by Diane Chubb This article will be the first in a series intended to educate Pelham residents regarding the dual roundabout project coming to Pelham’s Town Center.
Initially proposed as early as 2006, the roundabouts were to be initially funded through federal and state earmarks. Due to drastic DOT funding cutbacks, the state is no longer paying the match with “their” money. Instead, the state is dipping into other federal funds within their access. Therefore, the project is now funded entirely by federal dollars.. Two separate roundabouts will be constructed
in Pelham’s Town Center. One will be located at the intersection of Nashua Rd., Main Street, Windham Rd and Old Bridge Street (in front of the fire station where there is currently a blinking traffic light). A second roundabout will be placed at the intersection of Old Bridge Street and Marsh Road, in front of the existing Town Hall. The roundabouts are expected to alleviate
the traffic issues in the existing town center. Currently, traffic approaching the intersection from Main Street and Nashua Road must stop to allow existing vehicles to pass. Cars often line up waiting to make a left turn or cross the intersection at peak hours.
On Marsh Road, vehicles must wait for a break in the traffic before crossing or turning left onto Old Bridge Street. During certain times of the day, it is not uncommon to see a long line of cars extending back to the front of the library. Accidents and close-calls have been frequent.
There have been at least three instances where a vehicle has crashed into the existing fire station. The most recent such collision required the front doors and a support column to be reconstructed. It has been apparent for a long time that some kind of resolution was required to make the intersections safer for motorists.
Bids for the project will be accepted beginning
May 22, with the bids opened on June 14. Actual construction on the first of the two roundabouts in front of Town Hall will begin soon thereafter. How the Roundabouts Affect the Fire Station
When construction of the roundabouts begins, the Fire Station must permanently close the front garage doors. All of the station’s vehicles will have to exit through the back doors. As the vehicles have been carefully arranged to allow vehicles to both fit and exit from both doors, the inability to use the front doors will require constantly rearranging vehicles to keep them inside the building. The fire chief has warned that this could cause delays in responding to emergencies. The road for the new roundabout
will also be a foot higher than the driveway in front of the fire station, creating a significant drop where the two meet. The road will come within six feet of the garage doors. Therefore, although relocating the fire station is not required, town officials have deemed it prudent to relocate the fire department to avoid the delays and other issues that the roundabouts will bring. Working with the Community There is little argument that the current
traffic situation in the town center needs to be addressed. But how to get it done? Historically, the NH Department of
Transportation has identified traffic issues, done its own research and prepared plans to resolve those issues. Generally, the DOT has not sought public opinion in making such decisions. However, in this case, the DOT took a unique approach to understand the needs in Pelham, especially as any solution had the potential to dramatically alter Pelham’s historic Town Center. Using a method called Context Sensitive Solutions, the DOT sought to build a consensus with continuous input from the community and project stakeholders to create a project that was an asset to the community while balancing transportation needs. The goal was to find a solution “that fits its physical setting and preserves scenic, aesthetic, historic and environmental resources, while maintaining safety and mobility.” Starting in August 2006, the DOT held public
working group meetings to discuss how the process would work and to solicit public input. The first public meeting set forth the results of a Signal Warrant Analysis Report, which had been completed in 1993, updated in 2000 and completed in 2002. The report showed the following: • 52 accidents at the two Town Center intersections were recorded between 1999- 2001
• Evening peak hour traffic volumes showed long delays
• Morning peak hour traffic required more detailed development
Based on the results of the studies, it appeared
that traffic signals or roundabouts were the most promising alternatives. Following the study, Jean-Guy Bergeron and resident Leo Thibault approached then NHDOT Director Carol Murray and state and federal representatives requested adding a new project to the State’s Ten-Year Transportation Improvement Plan to address safety and congestion problems at the Town Center. It was advised the Town pursue federal earmarked funding through the State’s Federal Delegation. State and $3.15 million in federal funds, for a total project amount of $3.94 million, were dedicated to the project to improve safety at the two intersections at the Town Center. Funding would be available as early as October 2006, with construction funding for October 2009. The condition was that the funds had to
eventually be used, or else they would be withdrawn.
In October 2006, the DOT began a
transportation study to alleviate congestion through Pelham Town Center. Again, they requested that local residents get involved in the process to create a vision for the center of town. Approximately 40 people attended the October 19, 2006 meeting for a Placemaking Workshop. The intent was for Pelham residents to evaluate the performance of the roadways leading to the Town Center and to generate ideas for improvement. People in the working group indicated that they liked the wide open, grassy areas, the church bell and the sense of community generated by the area. However, traffic flow was a definite concern and there was no sense of place or direction for the town center. In February 2007, the working group met again
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“Paying it Forward” March 28th 6pm
Guest Speaker Tom Boucher, CEO of Great NH Restaurants
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Junior Citizens of the Year: Ashley Felch and Cheyenne Tessier
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to review traffic and crash data. Most of the accidents consisted of cross traffic failing to yield the right-of-way or misjudging the space, and thus, being hit by through traffic. Traffic counts taken in January and February 2007 showed considerable back-ups on the side roads as vehicles lined up to approach the two intersections in the town center area. This occurred when school was released as well as the morning and evening commutes.
Computer model analyses were run on potential solutions based on comments made in the October 2006 meeting. A four-way stop seemed to only increase the traffic lines. Putting in a regular traffic signal would require the installation of additional lanes to allow traffic through. Further, this solution still showed incredible traffic back-ups.
Other ideas were also considered, including re-routing traffic through other town roads. However, it was pointed out that when traffic was temporarily diverted onto Willow Street following the flood, it required police at each end of the road for safety reasons. Still another idea was to close Old Bridge Street and send traffic up to Main Street. By summer of 2007, the group had come up
with five different potential plans for dealing with the traffic situation that they wanted to present to the public for input.
In the next part of the series, the various alternatives will be discussed in detail, including the pros and cons of each approach. If you have questions regarding the roundabout project, contact Jeff Gowan at the Pelham Planning Department, 635-7811, or the Board of Selectmen, 635-8233.
Selectmen Turn Down Donation, Wind Up With 900 Cubic Yards of Fill Anyway
by Barbara O’Brien In what turned out to be a multi-week
saga, Windham Selectmen eventually decided not to accept the donation of 3,000 cubic yards of fill from a local contractor, but 900 cubic yards of the material got dumped at the landfill site, anyway.
Early last month, Windham Highway
Agent Jack McCartney told selectmen that Cairn and Son of Windham was offering to donate approximately 3,000 cubic yards of fill left over from the Route 93 construction project. The fill is valued at between $12,000 and $13,875, McCartney said that amount would take care of Windham’s needs for about two years. The fill would be stockpiled at the town’s old landfill, he said. At that point, selectmen agreed to accept the unprocessed material, contingent on finding out what the actual cost of hauling it would be. A week later, McCartney returned with the requested information. Estimates for the three days of hauling that would be required to transport the material to the landfill site would carry a price tag of $4,680 to $5,000, McCarthy told selectmen. Feeling that the cost of trucking the material to the landfill site would have been prohibitive, selectmen reversed their acceptance and decided to reject the offer.
As it turned out, however, some of the
material had already been delivered to the landfill site, approximately 900 cubic yards worth. According to McCarthy, the material is worth approximately $1.30 per cubic yard. This does not include the cost of transport. As selectmen had already rejected the material, there was some talk about having the company that transported it to the landfill come back and retrieve it. That idea was abandoned, however, when Town Administrator David Sullivan said the trucking company would not charge Windham for any transport costs. After further discussion, it was decided by a vote of 4 to 0 that the donation of both 900 cubic yards of fill, plus trucking services, would be accepted. Voting in favor were Selectmen Ross McLeod, Bruce Breton, Kathleen DiFruscia and Roger Hohenberger. Selectman Phil LoChiatto did not attend this meeting. Sullivan said that preliminary testing
was already done on the material and no issues were found. The cost of those tests was taken care of Cairn and Son. Follow-up testing will be done before the fill is actually used, however, Sullivan said, to assure that no contaminants are mixed in with the road fill. The estimated cost of the follow- up procedure would be about $250, Sullivan said. That cost will be paid for out of the town-operating budget.
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