City celebrates end of Main Street Bridge project & opening of Gateway Park

LACONIA — City officials and guests celebrated what Kevin Dunleavy, director of parks and recreation, called "the reopening of the Main Street Bridge and the grand opening of Gateway Park" with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the site last evening.

Director of Public Works Paul Moynihan noted that the bridge, originally constructed in 1972, is a unique structure — unlike any other span in the state — and posed significant challenges the engineer, Dubois & King, Inc. of Laconia, and the contractor R. M. Piper, Inc. of Plymouth.

Perhaps the stiffest test arose from the lack of an as-built design of the structure, which left the team to work from the design documents. But, when the bridge was dismantled they discovered that its structure did not conform to the design, leaving them to re-engineer elements of the project in the course of construction while striving to keep the work on schedule. "It was fun," said Bob Ayers, site superintendent for R.M. Piper. "I've never done a bridge like it."

The bridge is 400 feet across, between Beacon Street East and Beacon Street West, and consists of three spans. "Everything was rebuilt from the abutments up," Moynihan said.

Both Pat Wood of the Downtown Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District Committee and John Morierty, president of the Main Street Initiative, referred to the impact of the project on the community, particularly on those who live and work downtown where traffic was diverted. Wood said that "we listened to each other and worked together to solutions to the problems" while Moriarty stressed that the effects of "interruptions" were minimized and the project was completed "not for but with downtown Laconia."

Moriarty remarked that Melissa McCarthy of The Studio on Canal Street became the official photographer for the project, serving as "the watchful eye of the citizenry which is not an east thing for a contractor to work under." The crew from R.M. Piper presented McCarthy with a hard bedecked with stickers, among one reading "certified camera operator."

Mayor Ed Engler noted that before 1855, when the township of Laconia was established, the bridge connected the townships of Meredith to the north and and Gilford to the south. By the time the town became a city in 1893 the bridge was lined with buildings on both sides, its identity as a bridge obscured to those passing over it. "This is historic ground," he remarked.

The mayor suggested "we stop and appreciate patience," especially the patience of those owning and operating businesses who endured some "tough times" during the construction process. He also reminded everyone that Main Street is a state highway, a major north-south thoroughfare, and that our neighbors in Meredith and Belmont were also affected.

Underling the success of the project, Engler said "lots of good things are happening in downtown Laconia and this is one of them. We've done a lot in the last 15 years," he continued, "but we're not stopping here. We're just getting started."

The reconstruction of the bridge cost $3.57-million, of which state contributed $2-million and the federal government $800,000, leaving the balance to the city. The stonework and landscaping of Gateway Plaza cost$ an additional $240,000, which was underwritten by the city.

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Signs would mark Business Rte. 3 in Laconia at a cost of $4,500

LACONIA — The City Council will consider a proposal to to erect signage designating Court Street and Union Avenue, from one end of the city to the other, as Business U.S. Rte. 3 when it meets Monday night.

Earlier this year Charlie St. Clair, who has sought to add the signage since the 1990s, renewed his effort by reminding the council that prior to the construction of the U.S. Rte. 3 and N.H. Rte. 11 Bypass this stretch of roadway was designated as Route 3 but since has been designated as N.H. Route 11-A and N.H. Route 107. He contends that visitors unfamiliar with the area would be more likely to travel into the city knowing that they would ultimately be routed back to U.S. Rte. 3. Motorists are directed to business route in other parts of the country and the state, he said, particularly where bypasses circumventing downtowns have been constructed.

St. Clair and others have noted that Google Maps still refers to Court Street and Union Ave. as Business Rte. 3.

Authority over signage within the so-called "urban compact zone", the area where the city maintains, manages and polices state highways, rests with the city. However, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT) has jurisdiction at the beginning of the bypass on Rte. 3 in Belmont and at the junction of Rte. 3 and Rte. 107.

The signs would be erected at seven locations along the corridor defined by Court Street and Union Avenue between the Belmont town line near the entrance to the bypass to the east and McInyre Circle, where Union Avenue, Lake Street and Lakeshore Road intersect at the Gilford town line, to the north. Signs would be erected at the east end of Court Street, the Court Street Main Street intersection, the intersections of Union Avenue with Church Street, Gilford Avenue, Messer Street and Elm Street and at McIntyre Circle.

Paul Moynihan, director of public works, has recommended that 13 Business Rte 3 signs, 13 black and white arrows, 12 north-south signs and 13 sign posts will be required to mark the route at an estimated cost of $3,315. In addition, Moynihan estimated the cost of erecting the signs at $1,200, bringing the total cost of the project to $4,515.

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Summit Ave. residents asking for stop sign to slow traffic down

LACONIA — Residents of Summit Avenue, the street that carries traffic from Route 11-B over the bridge to Governor's Island, which lies in Gilford, have petitioned the City Council to address recurrent speeding on the road.

Several years ago the speed limit on Summit Avenue was reduced from 35 miles per hour to 25 miles per hour. However, the residents claim that "the speeding problem continues to this day" and the efforts of the Police Department have brought "little relief to our neighborhood."

The residents trace the problem to "many of the residents, their guests and contractors who frequent Governor's Island." Others driving on the street are leaving or returning to homes on the mainland, which requires them to reach nearly a full stop in order to turn left on to Wentworth Cove Road. With this mind, the residents suggest placing a three-way stop sign at the intersection of Summit Avenue and Wentworth Cove Road, which they believe will "go a long way in solving the speeding problem."

The council will consider the petition when meets on Monday, Sept. 28, beginning at 7 p.m.

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