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New pedestrian and bike plan underway along Route 3 in Merrimack

By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent

December 13. 2017 12:10AM




MERRIMACK — Local and regional planners are working on a project that will create stronger pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure along the Daniel Webster Highway.

Currently, there are deficiencies for bicyclists and pedestrians trying to use sections of Route 3 in Merrimack, according to Sara Siskavich of the Nashua Regional Planning Commission.

“Not only are there missing sidewalks or disconnected sidewalks, but there is a clear demand for improved sidewalk connectivity,” said Siskavich.

The NRPC is working with the Merrimack Planning Board to establish a Route 3 Bicycle Pedestrian Corridor Plan — a multi-phase project aimed to improve walkability along the Daniel Webster Highway from Merrimack’s borders with Bedford and Nashua.

“Bike lanes are generally absent here,” Siskavich told the board last week, adding more work needs to be done to install sidewalk infrastructure as well.

The first phase of the project has been completed, and includes the development of a map that highlights the existing bike and pedestrian lanes along the corridor, and identifies the gaps that need to be addressed, according to Matt Waitkins of NRPC.

To date, existing crosswalks, paths, trails and sidewalks have been identified, and a survey has been conducted to determine existing conditions for bicyclists, said Waitkins.

“We did a similar analysis for pedestrians,” he explained.

Different levels of traffic stress were recorded along the corridor to help analyze the comfort of cyclists and pedestrians while traveling along Route 3 in Merrimack.

“I wouldn’t want to walk there,” Siskavich said of a stretch of the roadway, specifically the Daniel Webster Highway near The Common Man restaurant and west of Horseshoe Pond condominiums where sidewalks are absent.

Other deficiencies include narrow shoulders along a significant portion of the corridor, especially near BAE Systems, explained the regional planners.

“There are different things that you could strive for,” explained Siskavich.

The second phase of the project is to begin prioritizing what areas of the corridor should be improved first, she added.

If people are already walking in select areas along Route 3 and it has been determined that there are shortfalls in the pedestrian infrastructure, including near the town center where the library and town hall sit, that should be a priority, said Robert Best, chairman of the Planning Board.

Input from the public should also be sought to determine what improvements local residents would like to see, said Best.

The preliminary plan indicates that additional crosswalks could be beneficial. Tim Thompson, local planning director, said the town has jurisdiction over most areas of Route 3 where the crosswalks are being recommended, although the state has jurisdiction over other portions of the roadway.

“I am really excited about this,” Best said of the new project, suggesting that feedback be sought from the public through an online initiative.

Thompson also recommended that the infrastructure map be available to residents on Election Day in April so that additional insight and suggestions can be collected then.

khoughton@newstote.com


Merrimack Transportation