Town hopes to cope with project

WILTON – During the summer of 2006, Main Street will be reconstructed using a matching grant from the state Department of Transportation.

The street will be repaved, new sidewalks will be constructed, “traffic calmers” will be installed at both ends, and a conduit buried to carry future underground utility cables.

Officials admit the process will be a mess, business will be disrupted, and many people will be inconvenienced.

There are ways to cope with the situation, however, and many of those were discussed at a seminar Nov. 8 and 9 led by Downtown Professionals Network, a technical support service provided by the New Hampshire Main Street Center for the local Main Street Association.

Planners discussed minimizing disruptions, identifying logistical problems, involving more people in the planning, and making sure local businesses and residents are aware of the project and keeping them informed during the work.

Since the project is in the early stages, specific information was not available.

Work sessions included design and engineering, which will take place beginning in the spring of 2005; developing a schedule that will least disrupt normal activity, ideally beginning right after the annual arts festival; planning for traffic flow around and through the project; maintaining customer parking; and ways to “celebrate” the construction.

Among the suggestions are moving the stone retaining wall on the Town Hall side of the street to allow for diagonal parking, allowing for access to a future river walk along the Souhegan River, and providing access to the area behind Main Street stores. To add a little interest and fun during construction, planners suggested such things as a “No Sidewalk Sale;” ramps and fence decorating contests for school children; a construction garb fashion show; construction photo contests; and celebrating milestone events during construction, as each portion is completed.

The town of Durham created a “Top Ten Reasons to Shop Downtown” T-shirt. Those reasons included “You can enjoy an extended mud season,” and “You can park your bulldozer anywhere.”

Planners said the best preparation cannot prevent all problems or delays, but with planning, foresight and a little humor, Main Street can survive the upgrade.