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Roundabout, intersection changes could come to Penacook

Downtown Penacook could get a roundabout or realigned intersections next year, as part of Concord’s multi-year Route 3 reconstruction project.

At a Penacook Village Association meeting yesterday morning, residents said they would like to consider two options for Route 3 in Penacook: A roundabout at the Washington Street and Village Street intersection or an alignment of Merrimack and Washington streets where they intersect Village Street.

Residents did not reach a final consensus at yesterday’s meeting; City Engineer Ed Roberge said he will present the designs to the Concord City Council tomorrow and suggest a January public hearing before finalizing the design.

Roberge said reconstructing Route 3 between Stark Street and the Boscawen town line is a chance to improve safety and economic vitality in downtown Penacook. The design options he presented yesterday would slow traffic through the village center and add green space, especially around Boudreau Square.

“It’s all about placemaking,” Roberge said. “These projects, while they may be transportation projects, they’re also livability projects, and we want this to be a living place.”

The city council must approve the final design, which will be the fifth phase of the six-phase Route 3 reconstruction. Construction is scheduled to begin in March or April and continue through November or December, Roberge said.

More than 50 Penacook residents attended yesterday’s meeting and voiced concerns about construction, a loss of parking spaces and the need for traffic lights in downtown Penacook.

Roberge said both designs discussed yesterday would allow for traffic signals in the future if traffic volume increased, but there is not currently enough traffic to meet state requirements for a signal.

Several residents said they would like to see traffic lights installed in downtown Penacook as a result of the project because economic development will increase traffic.

“I think we need to do whatever has to be done for the future revitalization of Penacook,” said Ward 1 City Councilor Liz Blanchard.

The city is planning a redevelopment of the former Allied Leather Tannery site in downtown Penacook, and is reviewing proposals from private developers. The city’s plans for the long-vacant site also include a park and new Penacook branch library.

Roberge said yesterday that he did not have details about the tannery site development.

Traffic Engineer Rob Mack said 11,000 cars now travel through Penacook every day, which is not enough for state traffic signal requirements.

Redevelopment could bring more traffic to Penacook, Roberge said, and next year’s construction will lay the groundwork for traffic signals.

The project will also result in a loss of parking spaces, Roberge said. Of the 58 existing spaces along Village Street between Coral and Elm Streets, Roberge said the project would eliminate at least 12 spaces. He said those spaces currently violate safety regulations because they are too close to intersections and crosswalks.

Roberge said the roundabout option, while adding “a gateway feature” to the village, would eliminate two additional parking spaces for a net loss of 14.

Some residents said they were worried about a loss of parking spaces because customers prefer to park directly in front of their destination. When Roberge asked if residents would like the city to purchase a space and build a parking lot, they said they would not be willing to pay for metered spaces in a lot.

The tannery redevelopment project could also add about 60 public parking spaces, Roberge said.

Penacook resident Brian Adams complimented the designs, which were developed by the city’s engineers with outside consultants CMA Engineers and Ironwood Design Group. Adams also asked other residents to look beyond their concern for parking.

“I was involved in the Concord (Main Street) redesign, and everyone was going on about parking, and the whole creative process was lost because of parking,” he said. “And it would be a shame to see that happen here in the village.”

Penacook business owners said yesterday that they were concerned about surviving construction next year and asked whether nighttime construction was possible.

“I see the need for change and safety, but at the same time I’m greatly concerned that businesses are just going to drown,” said Andy Turgeon, owner of King’s Barbershop on Village Street.

Roberge said all of the Route 3 construction has been done during the day because it passes through residential areas. Nighttime construction is a possibility, he said, but would increase the cost of the project by about 20 percent. He said the city has budgeted about $2.2 million for the Penacook phase of the project, but the project’s exact cost cannot be calculated until the design and construction contract are in place.

“Is there a way to phase it so that you don’t get the night construction in the residential areas, but let’s find a way and schedule to minimize the impact on the businesses?” resident Carol Foss asked.

Roberge said the city can address that issue, and he will take residents’ concerns to the city council before a final plan is approved.

In an informal vote at the end of yesterday’s meeting, 31 residents said they would prefer the roundabout design and 17 said they would prefer the alignment of Merrimack and Washington streets. But they also had many more questions, and Roberge said the votes were informal and nonbinding.

“I’m hearing that we need more community time for a hearing,”said Penacook Village Association President Kathy Bush.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

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