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An estimated 100 Manchester residents and business owners filled the auditorium at the Manchester City Library Wednesday night to hear firsthand details of planned work associated with the $30 million transportation infrastructure improvement project RAISE Manchester: Connecting Communities.
Focused around the South Millyard area to the northern end of South Willow Street, officials say the project will “improve connectivity for multiple modes of transportation,” as well as pedestrians, improve commute times, reduce traffic jams near Exit 5 off Interstate 293, alleviating traffic ahead of performances at the SNHU Arena or baseball games at Delta Dental Stadium.
One of the four main components of the RAISE Manchester: Connecting Communities project is a new pedestrian bridge over Granite Street to connect Commercial and South Commercial streets, shown in this rendering. Courtesy Rendering
The project is funded by a $25 million federal Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant.
“RAISE Manchester will not only transform our layout of transportation options for residents and reconnect communities, it will set the groundwork for revitalizing the South Millyard and the southern end of downtown,” said city public works director Tim Clougherty, in a statement.
The project is expected to include:
- A new pedestrian bridge over Granite Street connecting Commercial and South Commercial streets;
- A new roadway and bridge that will extend from South Commercial Street behind the baseball stadium and over the active railroad to Elm Street;
- A new roadway extension on the opposite side of Elm Street from where the new bridge terminates at Gas Street, providing an alternative connection to South Willow Street via a new bridge over the abandoned railroad corridor;
- A new pedestrian and bicycle path along the abandoned railroad corridor connecting Queen City Avenue and Elm Street;
- And a new roundabout replacing the signalized intersection at the Queen City Ave/South Willow Street intersection.
The map above shows the project area for the $30 million transportation infrastructure improvement project RAISE Manchester: Connecting Communities. Focused around the South Millyard area to the northern end of South Willow St., officials say the project will “improve connectivity for multiple modes of transportation,” as well as pedestrians, improve commute times, reduce traffic jams near Exit 5 off Interstate 293,alleviating traffic ahead of performances at the SNHU Arena or baseball games at Delta Dental Stadium. Courtesy Map
“It was essential from the beginning to connect these neighborhoods in a way that would enable residents, businesses and visitors to more easily come together via many forms of transportation,” said Mayor Joyce Craig. “By foot, bike, car, bus, or train — I’m really hopeful about that train part.”
Arnold Robinson, regional director of planning for project consultants Fuss & O’Neill, said the project got its start five years ago in conversations aimed at identifying problems downtown.
“Where were there bottlenecks? Where were there disconnects?” Robinson said.
In 2017, local civic and business leaders, community groups, residents and nonprofits launched an initiative called Manchester Connects — Multimodal Transportation and Land Use Planning Initiative, which was funded through a public/private partnership supported by the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission. It studied and recommended a number of ways the city could increase connectivity, whether people are moving on foot, or by bike, car, bus or train.
In 2019, the city convened a day-long public charrette with about 80 participating stakeholders to identify key issues in the project area and set key recommendations. Subsequent to that, the city held its weeklong Planapalooza in September 2019, with 116 individuals participating, which featured six different planning and brainstorming sessions and culminated in a presentation of findings.
In January 2020, the Manchester Transit-Oriented Development Plan Team hosted a separate but related public charrette, which included presentations from city planning staff and breakout groups for gathering feedback on the conceptual plan. Over 120 people took part by answering an online survey in the weeks following the charrette.
The resulting proposal was the result of hundreds of residents and other stakeholders and enjoys broad support, officials said.
The U.S. Department of Transportation awarded the $25 million RAISE grant in November 2021. The funds awarded were the highest amount possible under the grant program, Robinson said.
“It was a true team effort every step of the way,” Craig said.
Questions raised by members of the public at Wednesday’s session included concerns over a perceived lack of consideration given to bike users in the current plans, and impacts on pedestrians.
More information about RAISE Manchester: Connecting Communities, and the upcoming public meeting, is available at www.raisemanchester.org.