Roundabout reax: So far, so good, apparently

MANCHESTER - After decades of talk, debate and discussion, a Roundabout exists in the center of downtown Manchester. So what, so far, has been the local reaction?

If you visit the Town of Manchester's Facebook page or the Manchester Journal's Facebook page, comments have been largely favorable. Town officials have also been bombarded with positive comments in the last week about how well the roundabout works and how pleasing to the eye it has become.

"I think the overwhelming response that we have been able to measure both by individual comments to us on Facebook and all of the traditional media we have is positive," said Tricia Hayes, the projects public information officer. "Walking along the street has been very positive. I get quotes that say, 'well we just drove around it three times because it was fun.' I think as we finish things up and put the final touches on it will be even more appreciated."

John O'Keefe, town manager of Manchester, has heard much of the same.

"I've gotten just comment after comment from people saying they loved it from the get-go but its better than I thought," he said. "Tons of people are telling us, whether it is online or in person, that they use to avoid the middle of town and know they enjoy going through there."

All this positivity does not mean the project still has its skeptics. If you were to travel back in time there would be a lot of uncertainty whether or not this project was a good use of town funds or if it would solve the traffic issue.

A lot of negativity was posted on the Manchester Journal's Facebook page in the early stages of the project.

On the fourth of October Kurt Krauss posted, "A disaster. One malfunction junction of another."

Antonella Bellman posted, "I suggested a traffic light, but a roundabout is a lot more expensive, so I'm sure it was the better option."

When the project first began construction there was plenty of negativity swirling around the project and some residents did not like the idea of installing two more roundabouts.

"People, as a whole, fear change, they fear the unknown and I think all the concerns were from that perspective," said Hayes. "I think one of the most important things we could do was be very honest with our residents and business owners and tell them exactly what's going to happen, when it is going to happen, and explain any impact on them."

Keeping business owner's informed was a top priority during the project, a priority that Ron Houser, the owners of The Mountain Goat, has noticed and appreciated.

"They have let us know everything right from the beginning. They took care of us very well during this process," he said. "I love the aesthetics of it. It's a positive, it's a plus. It's Manchester reinvesting in itself. To me we are investing in the future of Manchester."

Part of investing in the future lies with how much pedestrian traffic Manchester receives.

"I think a big winner in this project are pedestrians. We want to make Manchester a walking town, whether your a local or a tourist we would like you to walk around and enjoy the streets," said O'Keefe. "I've heard nothing but positives, especially from businesses right around the area. Some of the strongest supporters of the project were businesses that were located directly inside the project limits."

The completion of the roundabout could possibly come as early as next summer - several months ahead of schedule - and should help give a boost to the area's economy, Hayes said.

"The economy has been in real flux in the last four years and any change that we can demonstrate that says we have the vitality, we have a new visitors center and a rec park being built," said Hayes, "all these signs certainly point in a positive direction and that there is something good driving the town forward."


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