April 02. 2013 10:30PM

A traffic circle for Nashua up for debate

Union Leader Correspondent

NASHUA - State officials this week will decide whether federal funds should be used to construct a modern roundabout to alleviate traffic congestion in the East Hollis Street area.

On Wednesday, the Governor and Executive Council is expected to discuss a request by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation to issue $2.8 million in federal aid to the city of Nashua to design and build the proposed roundabout, in addition to acquiring any necessary right-of-way.

The roundabout, if approved, will be constructed at the intersection where East Hollis and Canal streets meet Bridge Street.

A traffic signal is currently being used at the busy intersection.

"This project will improve the level of service at the intersection while also providing a way for vehicles to travel between East Hollis Street and Bridge Street without utilizing the minor cross streets," DOT Commissioner Christopher Clement wrote in a memo to Gov. Maggie Hassan and the Executive Council. "The roundabout will also enhance development opportunities along both corridors by improving access options, which is consistent with the goals established by the City of Nashua within the East Hollis Street Master Plan."

The total cost of the project is approximately $3.5 million.

About $2.8 million in federal highway funds are being sought to plan, layout, design and construct the roundabout.

A 20 percent match, or about $700,000, will be required by the city if state officials authorize the agreement between the state DOT and Nashua. The project is identified in the state's Ten Year Transportation Improvement Plan.

"The department has been working with (Nashua) to coordinate and prioritize several city-sponsored projects," said Clement. "The project has been identified as a city priority."

Once funding is secured, preliminary design work is expected to take place this year, with the right-of-way being acquired in 2014 and construction starting in 2015.

"This roundabout will go a great ways to managing traffic in that neighborhood as it starts to rise up and become a new, vibrant and growing part of the city," said James Vayo of Renaissance Downtown.

Renaissance Downtown of Nashua has joined a public/private partnership with the city to develop the area of Bridge Street adjacent to the Taylor Falls Bridge in the vicinity of the proposed roundabout.

Plans have been drafted for a mixed commercial and residential development on the 26-acre Bridge Street site, which includes future housing and office and retail space, in addition to riverfront access.

The multi-lane roundabout will serve as an eastern gateway to the city, according to Vayo, who said it will likely have several points of access to surrounding areas, such as a north exit leading to the Bridge Street development and a south exit leading to Crown Street, where the city is in the process of acquiring property for a new park-and-ride facility and possibly a future train station.

"We do anticipate that the roundabout will improve access to our site and allow it to become more pedestrian friendly," Vayo said on Tuesday. "Anytime you invest in infrastructure, you are doing a great service to the community, and this is an essential part of the downtown."

Traffic is often congested and backed up at the Taylor Falls Bridge and Veterans Memorial Bridge near the Hudson border, especially during busy commuting hours, Vayo said.

As city planners promote their vision for a vibrant neighborhood in and around East Hollis Street, Vayo said the roundabout will be a key aspect to future development there.

If authorized, personnel from DOT will supervise the project, expend federal funds and ensure compliance with the Federal Aid Surface Transportation Program, according to the proposal.

The Governor and Executive Council will meet at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the State House in Concord.