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Concord residents weigh in on Main Street roundabout, maintenance

Concord residents voiced concerns last night about ongoing maintenance, a potential roundabout and aesthetics of the city’s Main Street redesign project.

More than 100 people attended a public forum at the Grappone Conference Center, providing praise and feedback about the latest designs for 12 blocks of Main Street. The city received a $4.71 million federal grant last year to redesign Main Street, and construction is scheduled to begin this fall.

After two hours of discussion, small groups of residents reported their opinions to the group. Among their feedback was a concern for continued maintenance after the project is complete, citing a lack of care for spaces like Bicentennial Square.

“There better be a plan to maintain those flowers and trees if you plant them because we don’t want them to die,” said Elaine Kellerman, speaking on behalf of her small group.

Many residents spoke against a potential roundabout at Pleasant and Main streets.

Some small groups took informal polls on a roundabout design and reported the majority of members were opposed to the idea. Both roundabout and traffic signal designs were on display last night, and the design team specifically asked residents for thoughts about the intersection.

“Some liked the roundabout design, some did not,” said Sarah Chaffee, reporting for her group.

Sheila Zakre said she finds the roundabout design impractical for a downtown business district. Zakre, who is legally blind, said she worries the design would reduce pedestrian safety by eliminating “walk” signals.

“You’re not necessarily going to have people yielding (to pedestrians) because people don’t yield now,” she said.

The Concord City Council will vote on all project designs. City engineers have not yet made a final recommendation about the Pleasant and Main street intersection, but presented the roundabout at a meeting last month.

Mayor Jim Bouley and several city councilors attended last night’s meeting. Every councilor will receive written reports from the group sessions before the council holds a hearing and votes on the designs next week.

The event, hosted by New Hampshire Listens, was the second large-scale forum about the city’s Main Street project. The first forum was held in November, as an advisory committee developed recommendations for the city council. Last night, residents weighed in on specific designs, and most participants shared high praise for the project. Many agreed it would make Concord a “destination” – a goal that drew wide support at the November forum.

The latest designs would reduce traffic to two lanes with a crossable center median, widen sidewalks and add landscaping and public art. Parallel parking is proposed along the west side of Main Street, with angled parking spaces along most of the east side. Designers have proposed closing Phenix Avenue to create a “pocket park” with fountains, seating and public art.

Residents had mixed reactions to the Phenix Avenue plans. Some said closing the small street to traffic could create accessibility problems or traffic issues, while others worried it would become a gathering place for unruly teenagers.

“I’m thinking: Perfect place for all sorts of bad things to happen,” Marilyn Pelletier said.

Christopher Carley said “it’s no great loss” to close the street. He hoped it could become an attractive gathering space.

After viewing proposed public art, benches and landscaping designs, Kathy Conners said she wasn’t sure if they fit into Concord’s historic downtown.

Chaffee’s group agreed.

“Some people wanted to make sure that we stuck with a historical look, there was an objection to some of the more contemporary designs,” Chaffee said.

Parking was also a concern last night; some participants spoke against parallel parking and a reduction in the number of spaces. Gretchen Peters, owner of Puppy Love Hot Dogs, said her customers’ “main concern is convenient parking.”

But resident Karen Paddleford said she prefers parallel parking to the existing angled parking spaces. It feels unsafe to back out of angled spaces, she said, because it’s difficult to see oncoming cars.

“Having kids in the backseat, backing out, not being able to see, I’m always nervous,” Paddleford said.

Others questioned whether parallel parking would slow traffic flow along Main Street.

“I’m not the best parallel parker in the world and am I going to hold up four blocks of traffic while I try to parallel park on Main Street?” said Pelletier, summarizing her group’s opinions for the rest of the room.

Concord developer Steve Duprey, who chaired the city’s Main Street advisory committee, told the crowd that the forums offered “an easier format” to provide feedback about Main Street. Duprey’s company covered the cost of last night’s event.

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

Legacy Comments12

To MyTurn2 (no reply button): I suppose people could be "stranded" on the sidewalk too without a walk light, waiting to cross 2 lanes instead of 1 lane. It's possible that there could be stranded people on sidewalks all over Concord, but I haven't noticed them.

Help! I'm Stranded And I Can't Get Out!

I believe it. You could try using one of the 4 exits.

This is not about traffic flow. Common sense which seems to be at an all time low, tells us that folks frequent places based on need, price and size of inventory. When are folks going to get it?. Small stores cater to the wealthy with their small inventories and high prices. As long as we keep believing we are Concord MA instead of Concord NH, we will keep making these poor choices. We do not have the income here to support high rents for small shops and businesses. I have seen many businesses relocate or go out of business. A look at the business here in town will tell you who is sucessful and who is not. This design is a disaster. It will make parking even more of a problem and will in fact cost more than they are stating.

I couldn't agree with you more Rabbit.

Without a light, when pedestrians cross 2 opposing lanes of traffic they can easily verify that a car will stop for them in the first lane they have to cross. But when they get to the center line they have to wonder if the car coming in the next lane will stop for them while they are standing in the middle of the street. Here's an idea that could help pedestrians cross more safely at the roundabout: Allow pedestrians to cross the first lane directly to a safe zone at the center of the roundabout (where the grass is shown in the graphic). After pedestrians cross to the circular safe zone they could then wait safely to verify that the car will stop before they cross the next lane. This could also allow diagonal pedestrian crossings and reduce the number of traffic stops for pedestrians. Paint or cobblestone the circular safe zone - without curbing to allow snow plows to go right through. Put a fancy street light in the center of the safe zone with 4-way yellow flashing traffic lights mounted below on the single pole. Alternatively: Curb, cobblestone, and steel fence in the safe zone with 4 openings in the fence for pedestrian crossings - put a street light in the center of each fence section and a Concord Coach, sculpture, clock, or statue (Christa McAuliffe?) in the middle of the safe zone.

earthling...I do hope you are just trying to be funny...

No, I wasn't "just trying to be funny". What don't you like about the idea? Why not use the circular area for more than just grass? I've seen lots of interesting variations of roundabouts around the country. I think the idea could reduce traffic congestion by not having to hold up traffic in both lanes simultaneously every time one pedestrian enters the crosswalk. Pedestrians could cross one lane of traffic and enter the safe zone in the circle without holding up traffic in the 2nd lane. Then they could cross the 2nd lane without holding up traffic in the first lane. Judging from the graphic there would be all that many extra steps to veer into the circular area for the crossing. Plus it would also work well diagonally. Roundabouts seem like they could save energy by not having cars sitting there idling some of the time for no reason. Otherwise I really don't care if there's a roundabout or not. Maybe you were just razzing. That's ok I do plenty of that too.

I can see people "stranded" in the "safe zone" waiting for traffic to let them cross. Let's just hope we don't end up with the silly roundabout and we won't have to worry about it.

Give the Money back to Obama, Who thinks that this all can be done 7 Million!! This is going to cost us for many years to come and the downtown will turn into a ghost town when the construction starts. Whatever stores are left after the construction won't last long.. Just how much will 7 Million do? I for one do not want to find out,, Leave the downtown alone and the give the money back,,,I would think this will end up costing the taxpayer over 20 Million when all is said and done.

PLEASE . . . NOT ANOTHER ROUNDABOUT!!!!!!! MAKE THEM STOP!!!!!!!!

I'm in favor of this project but this is getting ridiculous. The City is bending over backwards to accommodate drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, business owners, handicapped, people who cant parallel park etc, etc. We know that when you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. As for those who are against the project citing federal spending and largess, these are exactly the kind of projects we need to put NH folks back to work and leave a lasting impression for decades to come. No one seems to wail about the black hole of cash that is the Pentagon when they blow billions on stillborn projects like the F-22 fighter.

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