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Route 111 expansion, bridge repairs part of Windham plan

WINDHAM - An improved Route 111, continued expansion of Interstate 93 and possibilities for alternative travel methods were among the topics the Windham Board of Selectmen pondered this week while preparing their submission to the state's 10-year transportation plan.

Following a lengthy discussion, the three board members present at Monday night's meeting opted to move forward with engineering for the already-completed corridor studies for both the extension of Wall Street and improvements to Route 111.

Discussions on Windham's most recent transportation plan were continued from last month's selectmen's meeting.

Town Administrator David Sullivan recommended the board continue to support the state's ongoing I-93 project and explore future possibilities for rail travel and potential upgrades to the commuter bus rail service offerings.

In summer 2011, the board endorsed an early plan to expand Route 111 to a four-lane, divided highway and add three or four roundabouts, sidewalks and bicycle lanes.

Sullivan said that while improvements to Route 111 won't happen for several years, the time is now to begin engineering efforts. Another priority is to repair a bridge and culvert on Castle Hill Road.

A bridge on that road was replaced in 2009. Sullivan said that when workers began work on the area in 2008, the culvert had an 87 percent efficiency rate.

Three years later the bridge's steel showed so much wear and tear it had a sufficiency rate of 38 percent, Sullivan noted, and the bridge is currently red listed.

Improvements to four other bridges, all over Golden Brook, are also worth including in the plan, Sullivan said. Since none of those bridges are red-listed, Sullivan said he expects they'd receive low priority for potential funding.

However, adding them to the plan "would at least put Windham in the running for any future grants or other programs out there," Sullivan said.

Selectman Roger Hohenberger said he wasn't supportive of the corridor study, noting that the bike paths and sidewalks being proposed for Route 111 are "discontinuous and inconsistent."

Hohenberger had also voted against the project during early discussions in July 2011.

"When you have sidewalks you have to maintain them and I don't know about anyone else, but I don't see a lot of people walking on Route 111," he added.

Selectman Phil LoChiatto disagreed.

"Something definitely needs to be done with Route 111," he said.

An avid cyclist who regularly travels on Routes 102 and 111, Selectman Ross McLeod said he personally favors the bicycle paths.

"We're also trying to accommodate growth in the center of town and we want Route 111 to change in a way so hopefully we can make some functional, commercial use in the center of town," he said. "This is also a safety issue. The shouldered bike lanes aren't separate features that need special care. It's part of the asphalt."

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