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Reconstruction of road surrounding D-H could slow campus commute



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 08, 2019

LEBANON — People driving to and from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in the coming months may want to leave extra time due to the reconstruction of a portion of Loop Road, which surrounds the hospital campus.

The project, to be undertaken in stages, is slated to begin on Sunday and to be completed by the end of July.

The reconstruction, which includes the portion of the road from the north inpatient visitors’ entrance east to the parking garage, “will ensure the long-term durability of the road,” Tom Goins, D-H’s vice president of facilities, wrote in an internal memo to D-H employees last week.

It also will add a pedestrian and bike lane to connect the current bike lanes on the north and south sides of Loop Road, he said.

During the project, sections of the road will be closed in phases to traffic in both directions. Detour signs will help re-route motorists around Loop Road to get to certain destinations.

“We understand that the roadwork will cause some disruption to traffic flow, and we ask for your patience,” Goins said.

This marks the first time this part of the D-H-owned Loop Road will be reconstructed since it was first put in place in 1991 when DHMC was constructed and the hospital moved to Lebanon from Hanover, Alan Owens, the project’s lead engineer, said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

This portion of the road sees especially heavy wear and tear because it is the route trucks take to make deliveries, Owens said.

It gets “beat up more so than the other side of the road does,” he said.

Owens said that parking won’t be affected by the project, detours will be well marked and flaggers will be in place around the construction zone.

It “should be pretty smooth,” Owens said.

Goins, in his email, suggested that leaving an extra 10 or 15 minutes to get around the campus should be sufficient for employees, patients and visitors to get where they need to go on time.

Though the construction will cause some delay for ambulances accessing DHMC’s emergency department, Lebanon Fire Chief Chris Christopoulos said he wasn’t worried.

“I have been looped in (no pun intended) on the schedule and have briefed my employees,” he said via email. “I really believe this will be more of an inconvenience vs. a safety hazard.”

Rebecca Owens, an associate planner for the Lebanon Planning and Development Department, said she expects the added room for bicycle and pedestrian travelers to increase the number of commuters and patients making the trip without their cars.

“That’s a win for them, a win for DHMC if expensive vehicle parking spaces aren’t in use, and a win for Lebanon to reduce roadway congestion and promote public health,” Owens wrote in an email on Monday. “We want people to make bike commuting a habit, and the more space that they have to worry about cars less, the lower the risk to try out biking there in the first place.”

Loop Road sees an average of 10,000 total trips — both incoming and outgoing — per day, said D-H spokesman Rick Adams.

A $130 million expansion project DHMC announced last December is slated to include a 400-space parking garage, which D-H CEO Joanne Conroy said at the time will “give us some breathing room” as hospital officials pursue discussions with community leaders about how best to move people around the Upper Valley.

D-H has not yet filed plans in City Hall for the expansion project — which in addition to parking is slated to include 60 new inpatient beds and more space in the emergency department — but Lebanon Planning Director David Brooks said he expects to see the filing sometime this fall and that discussions about traffic impacts with state and city officials are likely to take place before then.

More information about the Loop Road reconstruction can be found online at dartmouth-hitchcock.org/loop-road.html.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.