January 28. 2014 8:03PM

Road work hurdles remain in Milford

Union Leader Correspondent

MILFORD — A plan to make improvements to South Street may be taking a lot of time to get started, but it is moving forward despite several hurdles.

South Street, or Route 13, has been the focus of town officials since 2007 as traffic along the busy north-south corridor increased, and parking in the downtown area became hard to come by.

Around that time, the Milford Downtown Ongoing Improvement Team or DO-IT (now the Milford Improvement Team), under the direction of Tracy Hutchins, received a federal Transportation Enhancement and Special Purpose grant in order to bury power lines, construct new sidewalks, widen the road, and improve lighting and landscaping. Voters agreed to take on the remainder of the cost of the project after the federal matching grant was applied, and the design was moving into its final stages in 2012.

But the goal of town officials to break ground on the road rehabilitation project on a section of Route 13 from the Milford Oval to the First Church of Christ has been out of reach. Though there was hope that work would begin last summer after the design phase was completed, there has been some difficulty getting the necessary easements from property owners to get the project off the ground.

“The project is far more complicated than what was originally contemplated by DO-IT and the town back in 2007/2008,” said Bill Parker, director of Milford’s Planning and Community Development office. “I have been told by the state that the time it has taken to undertake a project such as this one is fairly commonplace.”

The town needs to attain pedestrian easements for sidewalks, utility easements and temporary driveway easements, Parker said. Once those easements are in hand, and the design for burying the utility lines is finalized, the state Department of Transportation will assess the project and give it the thumbs up or down.

Getting the easements has raised its share of difficulty because there is so little space between the buildings along South Street. Also, some property owners are reluctant to cede the land to the town, but negotiations are still happening, Parker said.

Though there’s been some talk of the town taking the necessary land by eminent domain, Parker said that concept won’t even be looked at until all other avenues of acquiring the easements have been attempted.

“Eminent domain is the last resort in any project,” said Parker, “as there will be a concerted effort to negotiate any and all easements at the required fair market value.”

If all goes well with those negotiations, Parker said there’s hope that the work can begin on South Street in the fall. Parker said the improvements need to be made before August 2015, when the federal grants will expire.