CONWAY — The Main Street Project might be able to start in 2020 after all, according to Town Manager Tom Holmes, who said he got word from New Hampshire Department of Transportation that a historical review process for both the eastern and western ends of the project can be separated.
The western portion runs from West Main Street to the Four Corners; it involves rebuilding the road and replacing a water pipe with leaded joints. The eastern portion proposes two lanes curving north and a third one “slipping” east on Route 113 past the library. It is this portion that could impact the library.
The goal had been to get the western project to construction in 2020 but because the two parts of the project shared the same historic review process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) there was a question as to whether the whole project would be delayed another year. The separations of the NEPA processes means the western project has a shot of being built on time.
Local, state and federal officials toured Conway Village Monday. At the time, the Federal Highway Administration said it could render a decision by the end of this week about whether the western and eastern Main Street projects can be separated under federal guidelines.
On Wednesday, Conway Town Manager Tom Holmes said on Tuesday he received an encouraging message from Kevin Russell, P.E. project manager with the state Department of Transportation Bureau of Planning and Community Assistance.
"Based upon our review of the information provided in the Town’s request, and our participation in yesterday’s field review of the project areas, FHWA (the Federal Highway Administration) concurs that each project has logical project termini and independent utility under NEPA. The decision to separate the NEPA review of each project is related to addressing concerns about potential delays which could occur in implementing some of the needed improvements should one project/area require more time and resources to complete the NEPA review and, subsequent Final Design & (Right Of Way) phases.
"FHWA understands that each project is utilizing some Federal-aid funding and therefore each project is still subject to Federal-aid highway program requirements during implementation. We also understand that although neither project is 'shovel ready', the NEPA review associated with the Main Street Reconstruction Project is expected to be completed more expeditiously due to all proposed work being within existing ROW.
"Should NEPA, ROW and Final Design for both projects be completed on time and/or ahead of schedule, the town and NHDOT could still consider recombining the proposed work for bidding purposes.
"Given the above, we concur with the NHDOT’s approval of the request."
Drawings presented in April by DegliAngeli caught Library Director David Smolen's attention when he noticed the town right-of-way carving into the library grounds. He called for the historic review, as the building is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Smolen has said repeatedly that this review would or should have happened without his prompting.
Smolen, reached Wednesday, congratulated the town for the "great" news. He said he looks forward to better road, sidewalks and water.
At their meeting May 3, library trustees voted to write a letter expressing their objections to having any library land taken. It was addressed to Peter J. Pitsas of Underwood Engineers in Concord.
"It's the position of the board that any plan that takes library grounds inherently represents an adverse impact to the library," says the letter signed by trustees chair Peter Innes.
"We insist that all alternatives be explored and ruled not feasible prior to considering any such plan."
The letter says the trustees consider the following to be adverse impacts: reduction of the library's setback from the road, alteration of the library's siting relative to the road, alteration of the library's semi-circular driveway and negative impact on the library's setting for pedestrians to access and/or view the library.
DegliAngeli told officials gathered at the library Monday prior to the walking tour that based on feedback, he and the Underwood engineers will be developing new proposals for the eastern project.
He said one would be to look at using property across from the library on the northern side of Route 16 versus encroaching from the library’s property on the south side.
The NHDOT's Jill Edelmann and Laura Black of the state Division of Historical Resources said that although there is a stone wall on the north side of Route 16, on the Echo Group property, it is not believed to be of historic significance.