It would be hard not to wonder about what life was going to be like around Manchester for the next week and a half that the famous intersection of Depot and Main streets - "Function Junction" in official precincts, Malfunction Junction elsewhere - when word seeped about how a bridge which probably few people knew was there or thought much about would have to be closed to permit some essential construction work to go forward. The marble arch which forms the bridge is quite beautiful, to those who appreciate such things, but it had weakened enough over its 100 years so that cutting a piece of the new rotary through it created an unacceptable safety risk. The easiest way of proceeding, town and construction officials concurred, was to shut down the intersection completely, re-routing traffic around it. This also had a few side advantages, like permitting other work, such as that needed on the second, smaller Roundabout at the corner of Bonnet and Main streets, to go forward.
Once seen up close, you can't help but be impressed by the level of craftsmanship that went into the making the marble arch which held up the road over the past century. To have cut those
Closing the intersection completely also draws on the experience from last year's Tropical Storm Irene, when state officials, faced with the need to get essential roadways repaired quickly, closed down certain sections completely to accelerate the work. That worked out well, most agreed.
The silver lining of the bridge closing is, we are told, that it will shave much time, perhaps months, off the eventual completion of the entire project. If that turns out to be the case, and there's no reason to doubt that, then this 10 days of likely congestion, traffic tie-ups and tests of patience and good humor will probably be worth it.
The timing isn't great but it could be worse. The week after Labor Day weekend isn't one of the busiest historically speaking for local merchants, but neither is it inconsequential either. So we're impressed that so far the general attitude seems to be one of taking a deep breath and accepting that this is the way it is.
Those who were never sold on the need for the Roundabout in the first place will probably take some grim solace away from the 10 days of inconvenienced motorists and pedestrians. It wasn't part of the original plan. But that ship has sailed, and the issue of whether or not a modern traffic light array supplemented by some human traffic control (we still think the idea of dressing someone with a theatrical flair up in a colorful uniform and putting them on a small platform had some merit and appeal) is over.
Overall, we continue to feel that given the magnitude of what is going on downtown with the Roundabout and the related infrastructure work that it's a case of so far, so good. No one likes the inconvenience of course, but sooner or later, all things wear out. Across the country, there's a lot of handwringing going on over decaying bridges, tunnels and highways. At least in our little corner, that is being reversed.
The best way to cope with it is to keep focused on the future, as we've urged before. Already you can start to see the outlines of what the new downtown core will look like when the dust settles and the construction is over. Those new sidewalks are a nice touch, and when the park benches and street lights are all installed and the those utility lines removed - along with all the stuff you can't see, like the new water lines that are replacing ones more than a century old - Manchester is going to have a real facelift. There's real potential to foresee a new era where Manchester is once again a hot location and a magnet for tourists and business opportunities.
The basic fundamentals have always been there, and combined with all the other exciting development - new Park House at the Rec, a new library and a new visitor's center for the Chamber of Commerce, there's some good stuff going on. A year or two from now, things could be looking very different for Manchester.
One last idea - strolling down Main Street with minimal traffic to worry about is something of a pleasant change for pedestrians, at least. What would happen if Main Street were turned into a mini Church street in Burlington-style pedestrian mall? Might be worth a thought.