NHDOT Cmr. Clement views Berlin, Gorham projects


October 27, 2011
BERLIN-GORHAM — NHDOT Commissioner Christopher Clement Sr. familiarized himself on Friday with the Route 110 relocation project that requires 11 now-state-owned parcels in Berlin to be demolished as well as the challenges of emergency repair and possibly longer-term flood mitigation work on Route 16 from Gorham south to Bartlett. The daylong tour, starting in Thornton and ending in Hart's Location was organized at the behest of Executive Councilor Ray Burton.

Clement, the then-outgoing Office of Economic Stimulus Director, was appointed in mid-Sept. to fill the term of outgoing NHDOT Cmr. George Campbell. His appointment will expire in December, and he said he intends to seek reappointment.

Clement first joined the Department in 2007 as chief engineer and director of operations. Before that, he worked for 19 years at Goss International in Dover, where he was director for global commercial web product management.

The demolition project, which is now out to bid with an estimated cost of $305,000, will clear the way for an improved Route 302 on Green Street, First and Second Avenues, and Mannering Street. Demolition should be completed in June 2012. One of the buildings to be torn down is an historical four-square wood tenement building with porches for which mitigation is required, including information on preserving the city's rich "built" history.

The potential for this project has come up every decade since the 40s, explained City Planner Pam Laflamme. The project has been under more active study and planning since the mid-70s. The route now has three 90-degree turns, most on narrow city streets. The relocated route has been designed to improve traffic flow and safety and alleviate congestion. Lots of community involvement has marked the project.

The bulk of the project will not be advertised, however, until Jan. 2013. The entire project, including land acquisition, demolition, and construction, will cost approximately $10 million. Berlin's 20 percent share is bonded.

NHDOT personnel displayed maps and provided a project overview: designer Kirk Mudgett; team supervisor Mike Hazlett; and construction engineer Steven Glines. City Councilor Mark Evans was also on hand.

Gorham select board chairman Terry Oliver and selectman Paul Robitaille joined the entourage at a bridge over the Peabody River, south of town, on Route 16. Rock rip-rap has been placed on the river embankment, rocks placed in front of the bridge's concrete pier to absorb some of the water's power, and one channel of the two rocky channels deepened. Robitaille said that he is very concerned about the eroded embankments that exist upstream all the way to the foot of Mount Washington and the flooding and new channel-making problems that could arise in the future.

Alvin J. Coleman & So, Inc., of Conway completed a $471,191 contract for emergency repairs due to Tropical Storm Irene on Oct. 14. Nearly 10 miles in length, the effort started the Great Gulf Wilderness Parking area in Green's Grant south to mile marker 93.8 in Bartlett. It included eight repair sites and involved shoulder and travel lane repairs, drainage and guardrail repair, and slope stabilization.

Earlier in the day, Burton, Clement, Evans, State Sen. John Gallus of Berlin and several NHDOT engineers had lunch together at the Northland Dairy. Councilor Burton promoted the idea that increasing the current gasoline tax by five cents would allow the state to finish its top priority, widening Route I-93. This would allow the NHDOT to undertake vital bridge and highway repair and replacement projects, Burton explained. On average, 100,000 vehicles cross the NH-Mass. border every day. On Friday nights, it serves as a pipeline for second-home owners and tourists heading north, Clement pointed out.

Although they both agreed that this would be a desirable outcome, neither Clement nor Gallus supports a gas tax increase. Other countries, such as China and Canada, spend a much higher percentage of their Gross National Product (GNP) on transportation.

"Where's Eisenhower when we need him," said Gallus, only half jokingly. President Eisenhower used the power of the White House and his experience as commander of the Allied Forces in WWII to gain the political traction to get the Interstate Highway System underway.

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