New plan proposed to handle Manchester Walmart traffic
By PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader
October 03. 2016 11:42PM
A gate blocks traffic on Gold Street in Manchester in April 2016. (UNION LEADER FILE)
MANCHESTER — City aldermen are expected to hold a special committee meeting next week to discuss a new plan to alleviate heavy traffic along President Road generated by the new Walmart store on Gold Street.
The plan, debuted Monday at a meeting of the Aldermanic Committee on Public Safety, Health and Traffic by Ward 9 Alderman Barbara Shaw, involves making President Road one-way headed westerly, and leaving all existing gates in place.
“This plan is the fastest relief for President Road, and is a compromise for those that do not want another gate,” said Shaw.
Residents along President Road have spoken out regularly about the high volume of traffic through their neighborhood since Walmart opened on Gold Street on April 20. Anyone accustomed to using Gold Street as a cut-through has been unable to get to South Willow Street or John E. Devine Drive since April 18, thanks to a gate in the down position that blocks the road. That leaves President Road as the favored route to the retail giant’s newest location. Emergency vehicles and city buses are allowed to pass through.
Earlier this year, aldermen voted to recommend moving the gate on Gold Street, placing it farther westerly to allow traffic to use Bradley Street in an effort to alleviate traffic.
On Monday, Shaw discussed some early numbers she said came from traffic counts performed after the gate was moved.
According to Shaw, President Road experienced 1,675 vehicle trips per day prior to Walmart opening. Shaw said that number jumped to 4.980 a day after the store opened, and dropped to 4,035 after the gate was moved.
Shaw said she believes her new plan would reduce the number of trips along President Road to 2,020 a day.
“Beech Hill will increase to about 4,000 cars, but 1,000 of those are residents,” said Shaw.
Shaw said she initially sent a proposal to residents along Gold and Sewall streets, President Road, Mack Avenue and Hunters Village Way off Sewall that described an earlier plan to make Gold Street one-way easterly, President Road one-way westerly, remove all gates and leave Beech Hill open to two-way traffic.
“I sent out 100 letters and received 44 responses,” said Shaw. Of those, Shaw said 25 asked that the existing gates remain in place, especially on Gold Street; 13 were in favor of gating President Road.
Because Shaw’s new proposal did not appear on the agenda for Monday’s committee meeting, committee Chairman Tom Katsiantonis of Ward 8 called for a special meeting of the committee to allow residents to weigh in. It would be held next Tuesday, Oct. 11, at City Hall; an exact time has yet to be worked out.
“I am ready to do something today,” said Alderman At Large Dan O’Neil, who has called for a gate along President Road in the past. “This has dragged on. It is so unfortunate for the residents of President Road.”
“I am not ready to move ahead today,” said Ward 3’s Pat Long. “I have a bunch of questions for highway.”
Late Monday, aldermen received an email from Kevin McDevitt of McDevitt Trucks Inc., located at 1 Mack Ave. In the email, McDevitt states he is writing on behalf of the “500 employees and approximately 200 Manchester residents employed by E&R Laundry, Ryder Truck Leasing, McDevitt Trucks, Inc., Prestige Auto Body and Quirk Auto Group,” each of which he said would be negatively impacted by any gate placed on President Road.
“Gating or making President Road one-way will force all of our employee and customer traffic to run the South Willow Street gauntlet and will damage our business irreparably,” writes McDevitt. “We have competition and our customers have choices. They chose to avoid South Willow Street today. Gating or making President Road one-way will force our customers to go elsewhere. President Road was originally designed and built to serve this Industrial zone.”
Specific details of Shaw’s new plan, along with traffic counts performed in the President Road/Gold Street area, are expected to be made available prior to next week’s special firstname.lastname@example.org