LACONIA — The City Council this week shelved a temporary traffic order that would have lifted the prohibition against truck traffic on the southern stretch of River Street between Jewett Street and Arch Street to facilitate construction of River's Edge, the 32-unit apartment building under construction across the Winnipesaukee River from City Hall.
River Street runs southward along the east bank of the Winnipesaukee River from Church Street to Arch Street. It is open to truck traffic between Church Street and Jewett Street, but signs at the intersections with Jewett Street and Arch Street signal that trucks are prohibited on the last leg of the street — about 90 yards — from Jewett Street to Arch Street.
Paul Moynihan, director of Public Works, said he can find no record either in the department or at City Hall indicating when or why the prohibition was introduced. The last section of the street is 16 feet wide and the river flows approximately 20 feet from the edge of the pavement.
The council responded to concerns expressed by Kerren Horn, whose home and business — RDH Electric, LLC — at 36 River Street is the only property that fronts on the street.
"The trucks are way too heavy to be on this street," she told the councilors, explaining that the truck traffic threatened to damage the pavement and hasten erosion of the riverbank. Furthermore, she feared that the vibration caused by the trucks, which is felt in her house, would also damage the residence, which was built in the 1850s. Horn said that she raised the issue with city officials about a month ago, when trucks began using the street despite the prohibition.
"I'm pleased you came tonight," Councilor Bob Hamel (Ward 5) told Horn. He said that the street was not built on a firm roadbed and was not intended to carry heavy trucks. Expecting that the street would be severely damaged, he warned "once they're gone, we're going to pay for it."
As proposed the traffic order would would have become effective on Tuesday, July 14 and expired on June 30 next year. The signs prohibiting trucks would be removed and "trucking as needed" would be allowed Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. A speed limit of 10 miles-per-hour would be imposed on all "trucks, construction equipment, contractor vehicles and delivery vehicles." In addition, the order notes Northpoint Engineering, LLC and Eckman Construction would be responsible for monitoring the condition of the roadway and as well as for notifying vendors of the speed and time limitations on the street.
Horn said that truck traffic for 1- hours a day, five days a week was excessive in light of the condition of the road and said that conditions on the road should be monitored by the city and New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, not the contractor.
City Manager Scott Myers told the councilors that trucks accessing the construction site from Union Avenue preferred to follow Jewett Street to River Street which leads directly to the entrance to the site at the foot of Arch Street. He said that Arch Street also offers access from Union Avenue, but the intersection at Union, which is below a steep rise, provides a poor line of sight of oncoming traffic. He suggested the hours truck traffic would be allowed could be adjusted and the contractor could be asked to post a performance bond to meet the cost of repairing the road.
However, Hamel insisted "this is not a good street and i won't vote for this" and Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) suggested Myers "take a couple of weeks to refine the order. Councilor David Bownes (Ward 2) moved to table the proposed traffic order "until we can answer the questions and address the issues."
Moyhihan visited the sight yesterday. He said that Arch Street was reclaimed and reconstructed and River Street repaved in 2006 and indicated both were in reasonably good condition. He noted that trucks reach the site from Arch Street are not able to make the right-angle turn in close quarters at the foot the street required to enter the construction site.. Although the driveway could be rebuilt and parking on Arch Street restricted, the sight line at the junction of Arch Street and Union Avenue would remain a challenge for trucks entering and leaving the site. On the other hand, he said that if River Street is open to trucks, they can drive straight into the site form Jewett Street.
Myers said that he is awaiting a report from Moynihan before framing a recommendation to amend the traffic order and return it to the council.