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Littleton selectmen review transportation plan

North Country Council Planner Alex Belensz addressed Littleton Selectmen Carrie Gendreau and Chad Stearns, and Town Manager Andrew Dorsett at the April 8 Selectboard meeting concerning Littleton's ten-year transportation plan. (Photo by Angel Larcom) (click for larger version)
April 17, 2019
LITTLETON — On April 8, the Littleton Board of Selectmen reviewed and voted on suggested updates to Phase II of the Littleton Transportation Plan. The transportation plan includes Main Street work from the Littleton Diner south, including portions of both West Main Street and Meadow Street, as well as Bridge Street and Saranac Street.

The proposed road improvements include new sidewalks, drainage and curbing as well as the repositioning of both the Saranac Street entrance and nearby Bridge Street.

According to a letter dated April 3 from Alex Belensz of the North Country Council (NCC), the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) recently completed their review of all proposed Ten Year Transportation Plans (TYP) from the region. NHDOT made suggested changes to the Littleton proposal and delivered a deadline for determination on federal funding support.

NHDOT revised the estimated cost of the Main Street reconstruction project to $4,316,780 and indicated that the Town of Littleton would be responsible for 20 percent of total costs. The letter also stated that while federal funding would cover 80 percent of the project, it would be handled as a reimbursement to the Town rather than paid up front.

Given construction timelines and an annual rate of 2.55 percent inflation, the NHDOT estimates that the Town's minimum 20 percent match will cost taxpayers $806,780. Preliminary engineering is tentatively slated for 2024, to be followed by right-of-way work in 2027, and construction in 2029.

Belenesz's letter also stated that the NCC's Transportation Advisory Committee was scheduled to vote on the prioritization of the TYP on April 11, and encouraged the Littleton Selectmen to consider support of the proposed revisions. He also offered a "Plan B" option that would delay decisions by up to two years and change the funding structure dramatically.

As Belensz addressed the selectmen about a competitive process, project revisions and deadlines, he urged them to make a timely decision.

"Everything has to be delivered to the Department of Transportation by month's end. There is no flexibility at this stage; it's a yes or no situation," he said.

In December 2018, the Selectmen voted to support consideration of the entire Main Street Phase II project for funding through the NHDOT TYP Program for fiscal years 2021-2030. According to Belensz, NHDOT updates the TYP every two years, and the NCC planning region received a $6.1 million allocation for new projects.

The NCC planning region covers the northern two-thirds of the state. In addition to Littleton, Gorham, Berlin and Shelburne have also submitted plans. After all revisions have been thoroughly reviewed, the NCC Transportation Advisory Committee determines project rankings and priority. According to Belensz, Littleton's proposal is currently ranked third, behind Gorham and Shelburne.

Town Manager Andrew Dorsett reminded the board that their vote was nothing more than determining a placeholder. He further indicated that Phase II was part of the same project approved in 2009 for the downtown Main Street reconstruction, that it had been removed from the initial project to meet budget, and was now back on the table for consideration.

After a brief session of public input that included vocal concerns from Littleton business owners Bruce Hadlock and Art Tighe, the Selectmen voted. Carrie Gendreau and Chad Stearns voted 2-0 to support the proposal, while Chairman Franco Rossi was unable to attend the April 8 session.

Garnet Hill
Martin Lord Osman
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