Planning board seeks comments on Lake Sunapee regional plan

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/5/2021 11:06:09 PM
Modified: 12/5/2021 11:05:41 PM

LEBANON — The Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission is seeking public feedback on the draft of its “regional corridor transportation plan.”

And in many ways the timing couldn’t be better as the federal infrastructure bill was signed into law which will send additional funds to New Hampshire to tackle infrastructure projects.

“We want to take advantage of this window while it’s here to get needed infrastructure projects on the books,” said Alex Belensz, a planner with the commission.

The plan covers eight transportation corridors in the regional planning commission’s 27-town coverage zone: Route 4A North, Route 10 North, Route 10 South, Route 11/12/12A, Route 11/103, Route 120 North, Route 120 South and Route 4. It was put together using feedback from residents and town officials, in addition to data and studies. The commission’s board will meet in the new year to vote on adopting it. It is meant to show the region’s goals for transportation for the next 15 years.

“Our main goal with this is to increase the competitiveness of the region to get federal infrastructure funding, if there is one overall goal,” Belensz said. That way, when funding becomes available there will already be well-thought out projects to pitch.

The federal funding could be particularly important to New Hampshire, as the state does not allocate a lot of money for infrastructure projects.

“Most of the state funding goes to maintenance ... and if you’re actually trying to do improvements to that system, most of that comes from various federal aid programs,” Belensz said.

Safety was the top demand for all of the transportation corridors, except for Route 120 by Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon which was “manage demand.”

“We definitely heard a lot about people wanting to feel safe in their preferred mode of travel,” Belensz said. “That might be safety at a rural intersection with a state highway or the ability to walk safely in a neighborhood or to work. It’s a concern that cuts across a lot of the issues … in terms of mobility and accessibility.”

People were also passionate about improving access for alternative forms of transportation like walking and cycling.

“I think some of that was influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Belensz said. “We see more people wanting to do things outside and walk or bike, both for recreation and transportation.”

One project was that brought up was making the area of Route 10 that runs north along the Connecticut River from West Lebanon to Hanover safer for cyclists.

“It’s a pretty reasonable distance to bike between those two downtown areas but it’s quite narrow and winding right now,” Belensz said.

There’s also interest in making the region friendlier for electric vehicles by installing more charging stations.

“We are hopeful this can be used to inform where some of the public charging stations can go and that can make a difference in the ability of people to feel they can own an electric car, they can travel around where they can go and be able to charge their car if they want to,” Belensz said. “We have a lot of work to do as a state to catch up to Vermont and Maine where they are” in terms of infrastructure for electric vehicles.

Any of the projects will involve collaborating with state, federal and municipal resources. The plan helps to serve as a guide and just because a project is suggested does not mean it will get done in the next 15 years.

“There’s hundreds of projects that have been identified across the region,” Belensz said. “There are more projects in there than can reasonably be funded and our approach will be to work with municipalities and local partners to identify which projects they’d like to try to move forward on and how can we develop good quality proposals so they can compete for the funding that’s available.”

A copy of the plan can be found at uvlsrpc.org/projects/transportation/regional-corridor-transportation-plan and comments must be emailed to Belensz at abelensz@uvlsrpc.org by Dec. 13.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.




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