Nashua to open second roundabout

NASHUA – An unsuspecting driver early this week will inaugurate what designers hope becomes the signature gateway to the southern end of downtown.

The city’s second single-lane roundabout will be quietly opened for the more than 15,000 drivers who travel on Main Street near Rivier College.

This is the most visible piece of the $5.5 million sewer separation project in that neighborhood.

Designers said the new roundabout is in a good location to mark a transition for drivers from the strip mall developments on Daniel Webster Highway to city neighborhoods.

Drivers have to slow down and the roundabout enforces a different driving pace, said Director of Public Works George Crombie.

The project includes 6,500 feet of new and refurbished concrete sidewalks connecting the college with the surrounding neighborhood, as well as new bike lanes.

The second phase of the sewer separation project will be largely out of sight, concentrated around Nashua Country Club.

The three-legged intersection of Main Street and South Main Street where the roundabout was installed has caused headaches for drivers in the past, officials said.

Drivers turning off South Main Street would be at a disadvantage as cars traveling north and south on Main Street sped past. There also was an awkwardly placed traffic island that Main Street drivers had to avoid to get to South Main Street.

Stephen Dookran, the acting city engineer, said the roundabout gives every car an equal opportunity to travel. About 15,457 drivers use this stretch of Main Street daily, according to a 2000 traffic count done by the Nashua ReRegional Planning Commission.

Though some drivers have questioned the need for this roundabout and the one on Broad Street by the north campus of Nashua High School, Dookran said studies show incorporating roundabouts results in fewer accidents than standard traffic lights. If there is a collision, the result is more often a fender-bender instead of a smashup, he said.

The roundabout has a 40-foot-wide lane, 12 feet of which is covered with cobblestones to alert drivers. The inner island has a 70-foot diameter.

City administrators are talking with Rivier College officials to create an eye-catching design in the center of the roundabout.

The project’s design was approved in 2002. It was developed as part of the federal mandate to separate pipes carrying storm water and household sewage in order to prevent the dumping of raw sewage into the Nashua and Merrimack rivers during heavy rainstorms.

A new consent order was recently approved that was aimed at boosting the storage capacity of the wastewater system instead of separation. Fewer city streets will have to be torn up to implement the new plan.

In the Rivier College neighborhood, ground was broken last spring to separate some 7,000 feet of storm water and sewer lines, stretching from Orchard Avenue to near Fairway Street. The project slowed as contractors blasted ledge to relocate underground utility pipes.

Jeremy Bouvier, the resident engineer for the contractor, Camp Dresser McKee, said the roundabout will open with temporary measures for driver safety, with the final touches to be completed in the spring.

Bouvier said the project is 70 percent done and is expected to come in on budget. He could not pinpoint the exact cost of the roundabout, which is just one part of the $5.5 million project.

Engineers said the situation would be vastly different from the Broad Street roundabout, which opened to great dispute and traffic tie-ups.

That’s because there is a more traditional ebb and flow of drivers near the college than near the high school, with no spikes during the day in the level of traffic.

In addition, construction crews have not been racing to meet a deadline, as they were before the opening of the Nashua High north campus.