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Residents help shape Route 28 corridor study

PENNY CURTIS, whose property line runs alongside Route 28 for a time as it travels through Wolfeboro, ponders one of five detailed aerial maps, before making suggestions for improvements at the first meeting of the Route 28 corridor study last Thursday, Sept. 23. (Elissa Paquette photo) (click for larger version)
September 30, 2010
WOLFEBORO — The town of Wolfeboro's Departments of Public Works and Planning and Development took a big step toward placing Wolfeboro in line for future improvements to Route 28 on Thursday, Sept. 23. Any conceptual design presented to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) for Wolfeboro's Gateway from the south must include community input and support.

Public Works Director Dave Ford kicked off the process at the Crescent Lake Elementary School gymnasium, with support from town planner Rob Houseman and consultants from the Stantech engineering firm. Public officials, including selectmen and members of the planning board, NHDOT civil engineers, and the Lakes Region Planning Commission mixed with local stakeholders for a two-hour evening of information, questions and discussion.

Stakeholders are defined in the workshop information sheet as "anyone who has something at stake in a specific policy or particular project; for instance, businesses, institutions and neighbors whose properties front a roadway, the motorists who drive the roadway on a regular basis, the pedestrian and biker who travels the roadway, state and town staff that maintain the infrastructure – really all who use or are affected by the transportation facility."

Five groups, each of around a dozen people interested in a close examination of the roadway, formed for timed visits to each of five stations to examine approximately three-by-ten-foot detailed aerial photographs of segments covering the length of the highway: 1) the .90 mile stretch from the Wolfeboro/Alton town line to Middleton Road; 2) the .99 mile of road from the Middleton Road to Pleasant Valley Road (PVR); 3) the .64 section from PVR to Christian Ridge (CRR); the .45 piece from there to Pickering Corner; and the final half mile from the corner to Route 109A.

The roadway itself has been widened and overlaid many times but has received no significant upgrades to address the changing traffic and safety needs. Though it was on the NHDOT's ten year plan for upgrades years ago, it was dropped in response to a lack of funding and lack of a conceptual plan that included community support.

Ford explained to those in attendance that developing a plan to address needs for the next 10 to 15 years will not only allow Wolfeboro a chance to get back on the list, but will provide a direction for future development along the corridor.

The collaborative approach, including citizens as part of the design team, is referred to as context-sensitive design, with a common objective to have a road going through the community that "fits its physical setting and preserves scenic, aesthetic, historic and environmental resources, while maintaining safety and mobility."

The randomly-formed groups of stakeholders, after first taking time to study the maps, soon began to ask questions of the host at a particular site, to share personal knowledge regarding traffic flow, and to identify concerns and needs, such as improving drainage, allowing room for bike paths, widening sidewalks and improving lighting. Those brainstormed ideas were written down on a standing panel of paper and added to as each group took its turn.

After allowing time for the suggestions to be summarized and listed neatly, each person was given four votes, valued at four, three, two and one point, to cast at each station to indicate priorities.

Those numbers will be tallied, the solutions will be analyzed by the project managers considering the data on the current situation, and alternatives will be developed using engineering software along with the draft of a vision statement for another public meeting. At that second meeting, whose date is not yet determined, the team will try to reach a consensus on the preferred solutions.

Martin Lord Osman
Brewster Academy
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