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December 09. 2012 7:06PM

Public meeting in Manchester will explore plans to remake I-293

MANCHESTER - A range of ideas for rebuilding a stretch of Interstate 293 known for aggravating traffic delays that spill over on to city streets will be explored this week.

For the past few months, a consulting firm has been looking at ways to change the highway to make it safer and help traffic flow faster. The group will present outlines of the possibilities to the public Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Manchester City Hall Aldermanic Chamber.

Alternatives being discussed include reconstruction of exits 6 and 7 in the hope it will improve traffic flow both on the highway and on the roads that bring traffic to the interstate.

"The goal for improving the interchanges, as well on the mainline, is to address safety and capacity issues along the corridor," said Marty Kennedy, northern New England manager for the consulting firm Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (VHB) "The goal when all is said and done is to have an improved section of highway that addresses safety operations and deficiencies."

A group of engineers and DOT employees have been working to develop the alternatives from suggestions made at public meetings intended to gain the advice of the general public and people involved in roadway construction, safety and use.

Traffic issues on I-293, especially as it tracks the course of the Merrimack River, are a frequent aggravation. Comments from the public have led to improvements that didn't require environmental studies, bulldozers and blasting.

"People talked of the curve north heading to Exit 6, the blind spot, and it was suggested by someone who was at the workshop that can you go in and just cut back the shrubs," Kennedy said. "The DOT heard that and cut it back and those shrubs have been cut back and there are other types of more short-term things that can be done even before the longer-term construction."

While the study and reconstruction are not specifically aimed at resolving the daily tie-ups in the circle itself, Kennedy says the alternatives address the issue through reconstruction alternatives on the highway.

"It can be addressed, that's one of the primary problems at Exit 6, the layout and the confusing configuration," Kennedy said, "Total reconstruction of the interchange would mean the whole circle area would look completely different."

The highway has been the main concern of engineers, who have focused a lot of attention on reducing the cutting and weaving that drivers must endure because of the road's configuration.

Widening the road to three lanes in each direction was listed as a topic for discussion when the study began.

At the meeting Wednesday night, the designers will present a slide show of various alternatives. After the public unveiling ,the Power Point demonstration will be available online.

Previously, there has been discussion of relocating the Exit 7/Front Street interchange to allow access in all directions so that some of the traffic could be drawn from the more congested Exit 6.

Goffstown town leaders have also raised questions about the impact of potential changes on Dunbarton Road and other feeders.

Kennedy said the engineers will listen to public comments and then try to develop the best alternative - which means factoring in cost issues.

"Some time in the spring we will lay out alternatives and will include the cost of the alternatives," he said. "DOT will have a better idea of what they cost."

Currently, the project is funded for a study only, and no money has yet been earmarked for the actual construction.

billsmith@unionleader.com

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