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December 07. 2012 8:26PM

Nashua downtown roadway study seeks a new direction

NASHUA - The aldermanic Finance Committee this week approved the hiring of a Bedford firm to do a $75,000 downtown traffic flow study.

"We are looking to see if the one-way street system in downtown Nashua is still a workable pattern," said Mayor Donnalee Lozeau.

On Wednesday, the committee voted to award a contract to Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. for the work. Lozeau said the project includes data, analysis, field work and more to identify ways to improve road and intersection traffic flow in downtown.

"It is about a four-month process, is what we think," Lozeau told the committee.

The study, which will take into account the changes anticipated because of the future Broad Street Parkway and how that will affect downtown traffic, will also study vehicle movement, identify ways to strengthen pedestrian and bicycle connections, and improve access for residents and businesses. The idea of a downtown roadway circulation study was first floated to aldermen this past summer when the Board of Aldermen approved about $2.4 million in escrow requests. The recommended $75,000 for the study was included in those escrow funds.

While one-way streets in the downtown area may have been beneficial 40 years ago, some city officials believe they may no longer be necessary to relieve traffic congestion.

Lozeau recommended Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. because it has been providing engineering services for the Broad Street Parkway and is already familiar with downtown Nashua.

"They understand what needs to be done in that general area," said Lozeau.

However, some aldermen were not convinced.

"I'm glad you feel that confident, because I don't," said Alderman-at-Large David Deane, questioning the scope of work that will be performed by the company.

Deane said he would like to see a more detailed and specific list of what is included in the circulation study.

While Alderman-at-Large Barbara Pressly agreed there could be advantages to having VHB conduct the study, she maintained that it might be beneficial to seek new perspectives from different firms.

"I hope we do start to look for new designs . I am looking for some excitement here," said Pressly, adding that she is eager to abandon old ideas for something fresh and different.

Lozeau defended VHB, saying it does bring new ideas to the table.

" We certainly don't copy from other cities," said Lozeau, explaining it is sometimes helpful to take advantage of successes within other municipalities.

Under the terms of the agreement, accident data will be reviewed and traffic analysis will be collected, among other work.

In a final report, which could be completed in about 16 weeks, ideas for traffic improvement will be highlighted and recommended.

Lozeau anticipates that the Board of Aldermen will be included in at least one meeting with VHB representatives at the study's onset.

khoughton@newstote.com


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