Hanover officials look at reducing downtown traffic lanes

By PATRICK ADRIAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 04-23-2024 8:00 PM

HANOVER — Town administrators are exploring ways to improve pedestrian safety at two busy downtown intersections.

The town is wrapping up a pair of studies this week — one at the intersection of East Wheelock Street and College Street, and another at the intersection of South Main Street and Lebanon Street — to determine the effects of lane reductions on pedestrians.

One study involves traffic along the Dartmouth Green on eastbound East Wheelock Street — a left turn lane onto College Drive and a right-hand lane through the intersection were merged into a single lane.

The intersection has posed a hazard for pedestrians traversing East Wheelock because they enter the crosswalk only to have a vehicle that appears to be in the turn lane shift right at the last second and continue through the intersection.

“There have been a lot of near misses, but fortunately no one has been hit,” Public Works Director Peter Kulbacki said.

Selectboard member Jennie Chamberlain, who is chairwoman of the town’s Bike Walk Committee, said that reducing East Wheelock to one lane would be a “tremendous safety improvement.”

The second study has examined the impact of eliminating the right turn lane from South Main Street onto Lebanon Street.

Redesigning that intersection would be part of a broader project on South Main Street that would include widening sidewalks for more outdoor seating and dining opportunities, as well as the installation of bicycle lanes.

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The project, which has been in development since 2019, is still in a design phase, Kulbacki said.

Town officials within the police, public works and planning departments meet regularly to discuss traffic safety in town, including at the downtown intersections, Kulbacki said.

Kulbacki said the town should move cautiously when it comes to changing traffic flow at intersections.

While being open-minded to the study’s findings, he said he wants to be certain that any changes will improve public safety substantially, not worsen it or have minimal effect.

If changes at an intersection result in congestion or routinely back up traffic, drivers might seek alternative routes through residential areas, Kulbacki said.

“We don’t want to push vehicles into the neighborhoods and create a problem somewhere else,” Kulbacki said.

Kulbacki said town officials likely will begin reviewing the study data next month, as well as public feedback from an online survey. A link to the survey is available on the homepage of the town website.

Any construction of the East Wheelock Street intersection would need to be timed with completion of the expansion of the Hopkins Center for the Arts.

The town is partnering with Dartmouth College on improving sidewalks and pedestrian crossings at the intersection, where the arts center is located, Kulbacki said.

Though Dartmouth anticipates the expansion to be completed in fall 2025, Kulbacki said the college will also need to lay underground lines beneath East Wheelock Street to support the building’s conversion to a geothermal heating system.

Recommendations for changing the South Main Street intersection would be included in the final design proposal for the street redesign.

Patrick Adrian may be reached by padrian@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.