Town to reopen bridge case

by Steven Hoffman | 5/11/94 5:00am

As a result of a vote at Hanover's annual town meeting last night, town officials will reopen discussion of the proposed plan for the replacement of Ledyard Bridge.

The vote marks the culmination of months of lobbying by a group called Friends of the Ledyard Bridge that wants to downsize plans for the bridge's reconstruction.

But state and federal officials say the plans are final and Hanover officials do not think the town's efforts will lead to any significant alterations.

Construction is scheduled to begin in 1996.

Following a series of public hearings last spring, state transportation officials adopted a plan to rebuild Ledyard Bridge, which is on New Hampshire's "Red List" of most structurally-deficient roadways in the state.

The plan calls for a two-lane bridge with a 16-foot median down the center and a sidewalk and bike path on both sides. The center line of the new bridge will be 50 feet south of the current center line on the Hanover side and will necessitate reconstruction of West Wheelock Street.

The federal government will pay for almost 80 percent of the $10 million construction cost.

Last night's motion, which passed 166 to 99, directs the Planning Board to "consider changes which could result in a more appropriate scale of the bridge, respect the present street alignment and historic riverside approach and be more in harmony with the character of the Town of Hanover." It directs the town to present any recommendations for change to the Department of Transportation.

State Transportation Commissioner Charles O'Leary and officials from the U.S. Department of Transportation have told the town the plans for its structure and design are final and that only recommendations for aesthetic improvements will be considered.

"It's been an emotional issue -- emotions don't always deal with facts but the process is one I admire and the system, the democratic town meeting, works," Board of Selectmen Chairman Willy Black said.

After the vote, Nina Banwell, a member of the Friends group who presented the motion, acknowledged that changes might not be possible but was nevertheless excited by the vote.

"I'm ecstatic. Our aim was to try to be a catalyst to bring about a review [of the proposal]," she said.

The grass-roots effort by Friends gathered more than 1,500 signatures -- including 252 from Dartmouth students -- on a petition opposing the plans.

Discussion of the motion lasted for an hour and 40 minutes, dominating the town meeting and overshadowing other business.

During the meeting's first hour and 20 minutes residents voted in favor of all 15 other articles up for consideration, mostly related to financial matters, pausing to discuss only one in detail.

Results from yesterday's town election for many officer positions were not available after the meeting.

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