Aldermen voice concerns on proposed South Willow detour

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Alderman Dan O’Neil on June 5, 2018

MANCHESTER, NH – On Tuesday night, the Board of Aldermen received an update on upcoming bridge preservation efforts, providing some feedback in response regarding traffic impacts.

Representatives from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) came before the board sharing details on upcoming construction on Bedford-Manchester 40731, a bridge along I-293 and Route 101 over the Merrimack River near Brown Avenue.

Last refurbished in the 1990s, the NHDOT discussed the urgency of repairing portions of the bridge, with some portions currently on the state’s “red list” of bridges posing serious safety concerns.

Phased construction is set to begin in April 2019, with partial lane closures until the expected completion date in October 2019.

The westbound onramp just before the bridge on Brown Avenue will also close during the construction, with a proposed detour toward South Willow Street drawing concern from Alderman-at-Large Dan O’Neil.

O’Neill indicated that sending westbound traffic eastbound toward South Willow Street only to get back on the highway in the other direction should be the last resort in terms of detours.

“The modelling may work, but (the South Willow Street exit) backs up all times of day,” said O’Neil. “The first option has to be encouraging people to seek alternate routes as soon as they get out of their house.”

O’Neil agreed with the NHDOT representatives that advising motorists south of I-293 to head toward Wieczorek Drive was a good idea, adding that anyone north of I-293 should instead head toward the Queen City Bridge before heading to South Willow Street.

However, he also added that the board would do everything in its power to help inform the public about the construction, with the representatives also mentioning several information efforts they expect to put in place ranging from frequently updated roadside signs to online efforts through Google Maps and Waze.

Ward 8 Alderman John Cataldo also voiced concern over using the eastbound South Willow Street offramp as a detour, fearing that the added traffic may impact cars going south toward the Mall of New Hampshire.

The NHDOT representatives told Cataldo that the length of the offramp would likely help separate cars heading off south toward the mall and those heading onto South Willow Street to get back on the highway in the other direction.

A powerpoint of the presentation provided on Tuesday can be found here.

CORRECTION: Catalado is the Alderman for Ward 8, not 7.