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Downtown Bristol is being disrupted by construction work as part of the downtown revitalization project. (DAN SEUFERT PHOTO)

Central Square construction in Bristol will last at least three months

BRISTOL - Road construction required for the downtown revitalization project has been planned for more than a year, and residents knew it was coming.

But now, as Central Square's pavement and the 100-year-old sewer lines are being torn up by large construction equipment, traffic is being disrupted and slowed, and parking spaces are hard to find.

The construction, which started last week, has required daily presence of town police to direct traffic around the dig spots, which have moved from day to day. There's also a sign at the entrance to the square telling people that downtown businesses are still open.

"It was really slow last week, though people seem to be walking around the construction and finding us," said Gina Morrison, owner of Gina's Place, a restaurant in the square. "We have very loyal customers, thankfully."

The traffic disruptions won't end soon. The goal, said Town Administrator Michael Capone, is for the underground repairs and road re-pavement to be completed by July 4, in time to accommodate most of the summer traffic.

"There was no way not to have done it this way," Capone said. "It has to be done, and we have to do it all at once to minimize the impacts on traffic and the downtown."

The downtown project's cost is $1.7 million, though 80 percent of the funding for the plan came from a state-administered federal Transportation Enhancement Program grant. The project was approved by voters at Town Meeting in 2009.

Besides replacing the underground water and sewer lines, the plan will reorganize the square's roads, parking spaces and sidewalks, as well as create a small park near the cannon and the flag pole at the square's center.

It will eliminate a few stretches of awkward downtown streets in order to simplify passage through the downtown area for cars and pedestrians, town officials said. It will also improve the parking situation by reorienting street-side parking spaces, making them safer for drivers.

"It will give us a more pedestrian-friendly downtown, improved water and sewer in the downtown, and parking will be changed to fit the design," Capone said.

Town officials hope the changes will improve the downtown business climate by making it more attractive.

Some of the work has already been done. Last summer, the town demolished the long-vacant four-story Mica Building, one of the square's main buildings. The removal of the building, which lies between the downtown area and the Newfound River, will allow the town to create another park area adjacent to the river, town officials said.


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