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May 03. 2013 11:47PM

Nashua planners mull plans to convert one-way streets to two-way streets

NASHUA - Planners are trying to determine the best way to enhance traffic flow downtown by investigating whether the conversion from one-way to two-way streets may ease congestion.

Aldermen are brainstorming with a Bedford firm hired to conduct a $75,000 downtown roadway circulation study to improve intersection flow, strengthen transit connections and provide better access to local businesses.

The study, conducted by Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc., has been under way since the beginning of the year. The project includes data, analysis, field work, alternative screening and more to identify potential strategies to improve mobility and intersection traffic flow on and around Main Street.

"Now is really an important time to do this," Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said on Thursday during a joint meeting with the aldermanic Committee on Infrastructure and Planning and Economic Development Committee.

The study is taking into account the changes anticipated because of the future Broad Street Parkway and how that will affect downtown traffic. It is also focusing on vehicle mobility while identifying ways to strengthen pedestrian and bicycle connections, said Chris Bobay, project manager with VHB.

There are many one-way streets throughout the downtown corridor. While no decisions have been made on what roads may be changed to two-way lanes, consultants specifically recommended converting Spring Street, East and West Pearl Street, Park Street, Court Street, Factory and/or Temple streets to two-way lanes to improve traffic flow.

"Remember, these are just ideas," said Boba. He said there is a lot of flexibility with the project, especially because of a separate traffic signal study being done in the city.

Other recommendations include reversing the one-way path on Factory and Temple streets, and East and West Pearl streets, while making other modifications to Water Street and the Walnut Street Oval.

There is also the option of changing downtown pedestrian crossings by eliminating four-way traffic stops, Bobay said.

"This is not an unusual phenomenon," said Bobay. He said improvements to pedestrian crossings should be considered.

The project study area is generally limited by the Nashua River to the north, Spruce Street to the east, East and West Hollis Street to the south and Pine Street to the west, according to the contract with VHB.

However, consultants explained on Thursday that other nearby roadways can also be considered while trying to finalize proposed changes.

In 1972, Nashua converted many downtown side streets into one-way patterns, with the expectation that it would relieve traffic congestion at little expense. At the time, the one-way streets enabled additional on-street parking and also reduced commuting times.

However, there are some disadvantages to having one-way traffic patterns, including possible confusion to motorists and reduced visibility of retail shops on select streets, according to some city officials.

Some aldermen mentioned the need to deal with the intersection at Franklin and Canal streets, along with the major intersection at Library Hill.

"That backs up all the way up to Exit 6 practically," Alderman Dan Moriarty said of Library Hill, noting associated congestion on Canal Street. "One would think that would be a number one priority."

Alderman Barbara Pressly said she was concerned about pedestrian access to Main Street. As a resident at Clock Tower Place, she said it is difficult to cross certain roadways to get to Main Street.

"We certainly need something more pedestrian friendly," said Pressly.

According to consultants, the most dangerous downtown intersection is where Main Street meets with East and West Hollis streets, which they said should be addressed when making changes.

Once the Broad Street Parkway is operating, consultants estimate that West Hollis Street will get about 10,000 vehicles per day.



khoughton@newstote.com


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