NASHUA — City officials on Thursday supported a $3.6 million transportation project that would reconfigure a major intersection at the city's eastern border with Hudson.
The aldermanic Committee on Infrastructure gave its approval for the city to enter into an agreement with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation to construct a multi-lane roundabout at the intersection where East Hollis Street and Canal Street meet Bridge Street.
Several other entities — including the full Board of Aldermen and the Nashua Board of Public Works — will also need to approve the project before it is officially authorized.
"This is a project that is 10 years in the making," said Tom Galligani, economic development director for the city. The proposed roundabout was identified a decade ago as the centerpiece to the East Hollis Street master plan, he said.
Galligani believes that a roundabout, as opposed to the existing signalized intersection that now exists, will help connect various properties, increase safety and improve traffic flow at the busy intersection.
Up to 40,000 vehicles travel through the intersection on a daily basis, which he said is about double the amount of vehicles that travel over the Main Street Bridge each day.
"This intersection is anything but traditional," said Galligani, maintaining a roundabout would reduce fuel use, decrease pollution, lower operational costs, reduce noise in the neighborhood and keep vehicles moving.
The roundabout, according to Galligani, will be a new centerpiece that will serve as the eastern gateway into the city.
"This intersection is so bad," said Alderman-at-Large James Donchess, noting a roundabout certainly couldn't make the traffic worse.
Alderman-at-Large Mark Cookson said he would not support the proposal.
"I don't know if a roundabout will do anything to solve it," said Cookson, adding some constituents will likely have a problem with the roundabout concept.
Galligani stressed that the roundabout will be designed to decrease the speed of traffic.
Although the committee ultimately voted to recommend final passage of the proposed resolution, concerns were raised about traffic on the other side of the river in Hudson.
"The holdup is on the Hudson side," contended Alderman Arthur Craffey, Ward 4, who said he still predicts that traffic will remain congested on East Hollis Street even after a roundabout is constructed.
According to Galligani, the city is collaborating with Hudson officials to try to remedy the traffic concerns. He added that Hudson is working on the timing and alignment of existing traffic signals on their side of the bridge to possibly correct some of the issues.
Nashua has become a model for the state of New Hampshire when it comes to roundabouts, as the existing roundabout on South Main Street near Rivier University is often visited by other municipalities seeking to construct similar projects, said Galligani.
He is hopeful that the new roundabout on East Hollis Street will be approved by all of the necessary bodies, and that construction can take place in 2016 or 2017.
Funding for the nearly $3.7 million roundabout will be paid with federal and state funds, with no cost to the city, Galligani said.