Upgrades planned for Wheelock St. bus stop

by Clare Coffey | 11/28/11 11:00pm

The Town of Hanover is in the preliminary stages of planning the construction of a "transportation hub" outside of the Hanover Inn, Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin said in an interview with The Dartmouth. A tentative vision for the hub includes a larger bus stop and seating area, a raised crosswalk in the middle of Wheelock Street and a "temperature-controlled" building in which passengers will be able to wait for their buses and purchase tickets, Griffin said.

Construction on the transportation center will likely begin in Spring 2013, and Hanover officials will send out a request for proposals to find an engineer and architect for the project some time in December, according to Griffin.

"With all the construction on the Hanover Inn, it just didn't make sense to start a new project until that's all finished," she said.

Although the proposed site of the temperature-controlled building is currently fenced off for construction, the current construction is solely due to the Hanover Inn's renovations and is not related to the transit hub, according to Hanover Police Lieutenant Patrick O'Neill. The town has already added another crosswalk and increased the size of the bus parking and loading zone in preparation for the hub's construction, he said.

Because the project is still in its early stage, it is impossible to tell whether the hub and its construction will affect traffic on Wheelock Street, according to Griffin. The raised "island crosswalk" may make the street safer for both pedestrians and cars, she said.

"Over 300 buses of all types pass through Hanover every day," Griffin said. "This project is about making sure everyone involved in that is safe and comfortable."

Parking has been reduced around the future construction site to create room for construction work, but the eliminated parking spots have been replaced by new spots located on the other side of Wheelock Street, O'Neill said.

The idea for the hub arose last year, when a transportation study conducted by the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission recommended the construction of a "sizeable" transit center, Griffin said.

"We started talking about this in earnest over a year ago, when we were looking to make buses safer and more enjoyable for passengers," she said.

Approximately $249,000 left over from the Regional Planning Commission study's budget will finance the construction, Griffin said. Although the relevant federal authorities, which include the Federal Transit Administration and Federal Highway Administration, have approved the transit center funding, the town will not be able to access the money until Griffin signs a contract with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, she said.

"They've sent us the contract, and I'm just waiting to get it in the mail so I can sign it and we can get the ball rolling," Griffin said.

The transportation hub was initially recommended for Lebanon, N.H., but city officials from Lebanon declined to undertake the project, according to Griffin.

"Lebanon ultimately decided that they weren't ready to pursue a significant hub, and that's when we decided to go forward with it," she said.

The town will collaborate with the College on the hub's construction, although they have not finished delegating responsibilities, according to Griffin. Advanced Transit which operates free local buses that travel between locations in the Upper Valley and the Regional Planning Commission have also partnered with the town on the project.

Taha Adib contributed to the reporting for this article.