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May 08. 2013 11:25PM

Nashua officials mull night work on Main St.

NASHUA - With construction crews busy renovating downtown sidewalks, aldermen are questioning whether some of the Main Street work could be completed during nonbusiness hours to alleviate traffic congestion.

Alderman-at-Large Barbara Pressly said the ongoing construction is creating significant parking problems downtown, causing traffic nightmares and negatively impacting Main Street businesses.

On Tuesday, Pressly told the aldermanic Budget Review Committee that the problem must be remedied.

"This is just the beginning of the (construction) season, and this is the second year. And this will run, I predict, four years," she said. Pressly, who lives at Clocktower Place, says the downtown work impacts her daily.

Anything that can be done to alleviate the parking situation and avoid "the mess" in downtown, should be considered, said Pressly, noting the several construction vehicles stationed along Main Street daily. She suggested fliers be handed out to motorists encouraging them to take other traffic routes, adding the downtown bottleneck is becoming a concern as traffic backs up halfway down Amherst Street.

"I don't know what can be done," said Pressly, "but the traffic, I think, is affecting the whole region."

Alderman-at-Large Mark Cookson said he would like to see a cost comparison on daytime work versus evening, weekend and overtime work. The city's Public Works Department is completing the major renovations to the downtown area, a $2 million project that began last summer and is expected to take three years to complete, according to initial projections.

"It would probably be beneficial to do so. I will take that up with administration," agreed Alderman Brian McCarthy, board president. McCarthy praised Cookson's suggestion to investigate construction work during non-peak hours.

The discussion, however, would be more appropriate if Mayor Donnalee Lozeau was present, said McCarthy, recommending that the topic be added to the next aldermanic Infrastructure Committee agenda for further debate.

Another alderman, Kathy Vitale of Ward 1, suggested that electronic signs warning of possible traffic delays be posted in the area, directing motorists to take a different route.

Regular commuters are already familiar with the work being done on Main Street, but it is the people who are new to the Nashua area who might benefit from the warnings, Vitale said.

Alderman-at-Large James Donchess has other concerns about the sidewalk project, and previously introduced a proposed resolution pressing for more transparent accounting of the Main Street work.

Since then, the city's website has added a Main Street project link, which includes frequent updates about the ongoing work. Still, Donchess was hoping his proposed resolution would be taken off the table on Tuesday, but Lozeau requested that it be delayed until she was able to be present. Lozeau was attending a different meeting addressing the Nashua Board of Education about its school budget on Tuesday.

Donchess said he has tried to take the resolution off the table before, but it wasn't successful.

"At some point there needs to be a vote on the merits of this," he told his fellow aldermen.

Donchess filed the proposed resolution last September, which would require the mayor and the Board of Public Works to keep track of and account for all costs of the Main Street project, including labor and equipment, and report the costs to the public and aldermen. If adopted, it would also require the establishment of a line-by-line budget for the project, which includes new sidewalks, traffic lights, mast arms, benches and more.

Lozeau said previously that it is very time-consuming to calculate and track internal labor costs for work that city employees are already hired to complete.

However, the mayor said she will make the project as transparent as possible and provide whatever budget information is available to aldermen as the Main Street work progresses, and post it online for the public to view.

khoughton@newstote.com



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