Transportation at UNH Part II: Changes Coming to Main Street and Train Station

By Jody Record, Media Relations
November 29, 2006

During the next 18 months, work will begin to change Main Street from its original design of a state highway to that of a small town community street.

At the same time, the rail station will undergo renovations, and a new, enclosed train and bus passenger depot will be built while keeping the historic Dairy Bar intact.

Both projects aim not only to make traveling up and down Main Street easier and safer but to help improve air quality by reducing emissions. The work is being done with federal highway money through the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality Improvement program. UNH’s contribution is $.20 cents on the dollar.

Here’s an overview of what’s planned:

Main Street

Presently, vehicles queue on Main Street waiting for pedestrians and jaywalkers to cross; buses stop, mid-lane, to board passengers. By altering the flow of people and vehicles on the road, travel will become more efficient and there will be fewer idling vehicles emitting exhaust into the atmosphere.

Main Street will be redesigned from Pettee Lane up to the railroad bridge, reducing travel lanes to 11 feet and creating five-foot wide bike lanes on both sides. Curb cuts will designate bus stops and pullout areas, taking the buses out of the street when stopping to collect or discharge passengers at newly installed shelters.

Sidewalks along the street are going to be reoriented so they lead pedestrians only to legal crosswalks. The crosswalks themselves will be shortened—in some cases as much as 20 percent—to limit the amount of time a person is actually in the crosswalk.

New lighting will reduce shadows and glare, making pedestrians more visible to drivers.

Additionally, access to Nesmith lot is being relocated to College Road, taking the traffic off Main Street and the busy area in front of the Whittemore Center.

“The street is being redesigned to better meet the needs of all users. We want to make crossing the street safer and we want to make the transit system work more smoothly,” says Steve Pesci, director of special projects for Campus Planning.

“Every day, we have more pedestrians crossing Main Street than we do private vehicles using the street. It’s time to rebalance the design. All these changes may sound minor but the hope is that, together, they will lead to a safer, more efficient and more pleasant street corridor.”

Aesthetics will get a boost, too, with the switch to light fixtures that match those now used in downtown Durham. The hope is to have the downtown and the campus blend together. To that end, the town of Durham is contributing $88,500 toward the entire $1.87 million project. UNH’s share is $286,000.

Rail Station

Right now, the ticket machine for the Downeaster is located at the Whittemore Center. While there is a platform where passengers can wait, it is not enclosed. That will change next summer when an actual train and bus station is built.

Ridership has been increasing at a rate of more than 25 percent a year since 2001 with big increases in summer travel, indicating the continued growth among non-UNH passengers.

The rise in demand led to the addition of a fifth roundtrip; it started Oct. 30.

“It is expected that the additional rail service will significantly increase corridor ridership in the coming year,” Pesci says.

Consulting and design work on the approximately $950,000 project has already begun. The goals are to create a climate controlled passenger waiting space; provide access for intercity buses; relocate ticketing and train status information to the platform area and complete historic renovations to the existing building.

These improvements will prepare the building for its next 100 years and complete its rebirth as a transportation and arrival center for UNH and the town.

Construction on both projects will be underway by May 2007, with work accelerating after commencement. By the time the new school year starts next fall, transportation at UNH will have taken another step toward satisfying the recommendations of the Transportation Policy Committee and its goal of creating a more efficient, safer system of campus travel.

“There are going to be a lot of improvements to both of our ‘main streets’” (Main Street itself and the Downeaster) Pesci says. “We hope that these projects will be highly visible and highly successful.”

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