Just in time for Commute Green Week in the state, the Hippo‘s QOL column reports that the Kelley Street bridge is posted as being closed to pedestrians and bicyclists during deck replacement. The Highway Division website has information on the project and why it is necessary to replace the bridge deck at this time, but does not provide any information about restricted access for pedestrians and bicyclists, or alternative routes for non-drivers.
Bicycles in New Hampshire are given the same rights and responsibilities as cars with a few exceptions, so almost anywhere a driver can go, a bicyclists should be able to as well. LivableMHT hasn’t seen the bridge under construction, so this is speculation, but given that the deck is being replaced and probably exposed, it seems likely that the Highway Division is restricting bicycle access for safety reasons. If a lane is paved, however, bicyclists should be able to make use of it as any motor vehicle can.
Pedestrians should also be given access to such critical crossings as the Nazaire Biron Bridge, as the Kelley Street bridge is officially known, even during construction projects whenever possible. The Highway Division reports that the deck replacement will take “two construction seasons”–that’s a long time for pedestrians to have to make wide detours or hitch a ride between the dense, walkable Pinardville and Rimmon Heights neighborhoods.
It’s good to see that, according to the Highway Division’s website, construction work is being coordinated with the MTA to ensure minimal interruptions or delays in service, and the Hippo mentions a sign for a pedestrian and bicyclist shuttle, but no further information could be found by them or us. Between the dense neighborhoods on either side and the popular Piscataquog recreational trail that currently ends at the the Kelley Street bridge, it seems that steps should be taken to ensure pedestrian and bicycle access during construction as much as possible.
The Planning & Community Development Department call for the city to grow as a “vibrant, walkable, and healthy place to live, work and play”, and the Rimmon Heights neighborhood plan calls for greater pedestrian and bicycling infrastructure, as well as better transit in the neighborhood. Hopefully the repairs to the Nazaire Biron Bridge will help bring that about, but in the meantime, the bridge needs to be open to people other than drivers.
This post is one in an ongoing LivableMHT series, Livable/Unlovable, that will comment on proposals, projects and other topics that are either good (Livable) or bad (Unlovable) from a livability/urban development viewpoint.