EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 6, 2013

Construction causing backups in Derry

By Alex Lippa

---- — DERRY — Going from East Derry to South Range Elementary School used to be a breeze for Trista Kort.

Now, she needs to find a new route.

“I haven’t figured out how I’m going to get where I’m going,” she said. “I probably will have to cut through some poor residential neighborhood.”

She’s not alone.

Busy Rockingham Road is under construction. Since Tuesday, it’s been closed from Bradford Street to Winter Hill — and it will stay that way through November

“The most efficient way to do it is to come in and shut the road completely,” said Mike Fowler, the town’s director of public works. “We can reopen the road sooner, as opposed to doubling the cost and doing it one lane at a time.”

The town will be constructing a new bridge and installing water, drainage and sewage in the area. The road will be closed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

With a major road closed, Fowler said, he was prepared for a ripple effect throughout town.

“We know that more people would be going through town on Route 102 to avoid the detour,” he said. “So, we have changed the timing of the traffic signal on Route 102 and Route 28, to allow more traffic to pass through.”

Derry police will be stationed at both ends of the detour to help redirect motorists. At Birch Street, they will be directed to take Windham Road to Berry Road to rejoin Route 28. At the Route 28/Bypass 28 intersection, drivers will go through the rotary to Route 102 to meet with Route 28.

Police Capt. Vernon Thomas said he has noticed a bumpy start this week, but expects things to settle down.

“There has been a backup in all directions at the beginning,” he said. “But we expect it to be better at the end of this week, after they learn the detour.”

Fowler said there have been some long backups, especially during the busiest times of day.

“Between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m., there has been a long backup going north on Route 28 bypass toward Pinkerton,” he said. “The same type of thing happens between 2:30 and 4:30 (p.m.).”

Matt McCalvey, manager at the Mobil on Bypass 28, said the backup has been noticeable.

“It’s a real nuisance,” he said. “I’ve noticed the rotary get backed up a lot more than usual. When school gets out, it’s even worse.”

Kort said she traveled on the road earlier this week and got stuck in the backup.

“I ended up turning around and going a longer way, instead of just sitting there,” she said. “It’s going to be a long couple of months.”

At South Range School, principal Matthew Olsen said a few students were late to school Tuesday due to the construction, but since then there haven’t been any problems.

“Surprisingly, it’s been relatively quiet and seamless,” Olsen said. “That first day, there was a lot of getting used to a new route, but they did a nice job of making it easy on people.”

Ideally, town officials would have liked the construction to have occurred in the summer, rather than the fall.

But there were concerns about affecting some businesses with peak traffic during the summer,” Fowler said.

“We also had some zoning issues we needed to figure out and we wanted to make sure that those passed,” he said.

At Parkland Medical Center, COO Jeff Scionti said there have been no issues getting people transported to the hospital in emergency situations.

“We don’t feel it will be much of an issue,” he said. “It’s not too onerous of a detour.”

The hospital worked with the town to put up blue hospital signs along the detour and have called patients to inform them to take an alternate route.

This is just the first phase of the project on Rockingham Road. Next spring, work will be done between Winter Hill Road and Bypass 28. The total cost of the project is about $4 million.