Somersworth Sidewalks, Roads and Complete Streets
One of the complaints I hear over and over again about Somersworth is the state of the roads and lack of maintenance. So I decided to take a closer look into the what is being done and what can be done to improve the roads.
What Is Causing The Problems?
The first thing worth pointing out is that for many years the policy was simply to tar over the existing road and for a while the road looked bright and shiny and everyone was happy. On the surface this seems like a good policy but as we are now discovering it was not the case. We have roads with layer upon layer of tar but the potholes still appear year after year because we tend to forget that under the surface is a myriad of pipes, wires and sewers that make up the infrastructure of the city itself.
For many years we have simply tarred over that infastructure which on one hand makes citizens happy because they have a shiny looking road but the damage beneath the surface remains hidden until a water main breaks or a sewer collapses.
When you add in the fact that we have warm summers and cold winters here in New England you can compound that problem. Add in lots of road salt, plowing and the fact that many of us are auto reliant the problem compounds itself. There is an answer to this though and that is the,
Complete Streets Solution
Many are not aware of this but Somersworth has adopted the “Complete Streets Approach,” when it comes to planning and implementing road repairs where possible. No longer will they simply tar over the existing road surface, as has been done in the past.
This approach can be seen first hand if you take a walk down Memorial Drive. Sewer pipes were inspected and repaired during the summer long operation, sidewalks repaired or replaced and possible future needs anticipated. Making for a complete street.
This approach has also been taken with the section of Indigo Road that has been undertaken over the past couple of years and is now complete. The project allowed the linking of two sidewalks that until the project was completed basically went nowhere. It also included a very fancy but safe crosswalk which I’m glad to to say I have personally tested on several occasions and works very well.
The downside of a complete streets approach is that it costs more money to implement upfront. That said from the reading I’ve been doing lately the money saved in long term repairs far out ways that of the upfront cost.
Complete streets also takes longer to implement simply because there is more planning, more construction and more people involved in the process. When you are digging up streets that in some cases have been band-aided for the past forty years plus, problems will arise and that possible extra costs have to be accounted for.
Grants Can Help.
As I write this grants have been applied for and still more are being found by the capable planning team that we have in place at city hall. Not all will be successfully obtained but if we don’t attempt to get them, we can’t complain. Those we are lucky enough to be ‘ummm’ granted will make an impact in various areas of the city.
The good news is that we have been lucky enough to obtain many of the grants we applied for. This includes a Transportation Alternatives Program-TAP Grant for $789,200 involves constructing new sidewalks on High Street, upgrading crosswalk access on High Street, constructing a sidewalk on Memorial Drive and Cemetery Road and constructing a multi-use path between the elementary school and middle school. This will enable more connectivity between the middle schools and Maplewood as well as doing some complete street work on Cemetery Road and High Street.
Another grant we have been awarded is a Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) grant is for $699,000 with a local share of $139,800 and involves the replacing and upgrading of traffic control equipment at all signalized intersections along the High Street Corridor from West High Street to the Dover Weeks Crossing. It also includes new equipment to interface with the City of Dover Central Avenue/Weeks Crossing Intersection for improved synchronization and traffic flow through the High Street corridor.
There are also plans afoot to enhance route 108 as well. This is a plan involves the state and if the gods are willing, the stars line up and everything goes to plan, would be completed in 2024. A 12 million dollar undertaking this would be the first complete street initiative undertaken by the state of New Hampshire. The project would extend from Weeks Crossing in Dover all the way to Rochester’s Skyhaven airport.
Main Street Engineering Has Begun
Many of the roads mentioned as being bad on facebook by citizens are being addressed as well. These include Main Street which for many years has been untouched and as someone who travels that road regularly I am fully aware of as is my poor car. The good news is steps are being taken to address the problem.
This year engineering work has been undertaken to discover just what the problem under the road might be because there is a lot that we cannot see but can create problems. When you simply tar the roads, year after year as was the past practice for many years you are addressing a symptom as opposed to the actual problem.
Once the correct data is discovered not only will Main Street be tarred but it will go much deeper than that and like the Indigo Hill project that was completed earlier this year will involve a complete overhaul which will have to take place in sections. This is because there are sewers, water pipes and wires under the road and many of these will be replaced as well. Sidewalks will be addressed is my understanding just as they were during the indigo Hill project but all off this takes time and the biggest part of that is planning the best route to do do the work.
It’s Gonna Take Time, Effort And Money
Unfortunately there is no way around the fact that providing complete streets including sidewalks is going to take time, effort and money. I wish I had a fairy Godmother that could wave her magic wand and simply make it happen but I do see some great plans afoot and real desire to get this right. In the end we all win with this approach, whether we walk, bike, ride or skateboard in the city.
All the details of the ongoing projects are available at Somersworth City Hall and are public knowledge. So take a trip down if your interested in what exactly is being planned and what stage the projects are in you can find more there.