Routes 3 and 26 go through downtown Colebrook, making the town of 2,300 a major connector in the North Country. Like many New England towns, Colebrook’s Main Street also houses mixed use structures with businesses on the bottom floor and apartments on the top. Currently, there are no bicycle lanes and the sidewalks have curbs that require pedestrians to step up and can make it difficult for people to get around safely downtown. When the town discovered it needed major infrastructure improvements to the water and sewer system in the Main Street area, it decided to take a Complete Streets approach to the project.

The $6.5 million, two-phase project will begin this Spring and is expected to take about four years. Phase One addresses replacing all the sewer and water infrastructure in the downtown area and will cost an estimated $4.47 million. Just over $2 million will go toward Phase Two which consists of Main Street improvements that consider Complete Streets guidelines. Included in that budget is a $800,000 Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant that will be used to develop traffic calming streetscapes, ADA compliant sidewalks, and a bicycle lane.

Colebrook’s Town Manager Becky Merrow explains, “There was an opportunity to make Complete Streets improvements to our Main Street without spending much, if any, additional budget, as part of the water and sewer construction project since the roads were all to be redone anyway.”

Providing a safe way for people to get around for all modes of transportation was a top consideration in the redesign of the Main Street, particularly for those residents living downtown who may not have access to automobiles or who may use wheelchairs. Colebrook has a high percentage of people that walk to work, according to the Office of Energy and Planning, and safety concerns remain top-of-mind for the town because a pedestrian was hit by a car in front of the bank on Main Street a few years ago.  

Merrow has been familiar with Complete Streets for many years. Prior to her position as Town Manager in Colebrook, she completed a Transportation Enhancement project in Lancaster where she was the Planning and Zoning Coordinator. Last year, she met with the HEAL NH Active Transportation Coordinator to discuss ways in which Colebrook could use Complete Streets concepts to enhance its Main Street.

Lori Morann, Executive Director of North Country Community Recreation Center and member of the HEAL NH Community Network Steering Committee who helped arrange the meeting between HEAL NH and the Town Manager, believes the entire town of Colebrook could benefit from the Complete Streets project. According to Morann, “HEAL helped during the planning process by meeting with us and offering examples of Complete Streets projects in similar-sized towns, suggesting ways to communicate with the downtown businesses and residences that might be affected during construction, and discussing ways Colebrook could accommodate all forms of active transportation, especially cyclists.”

Morann believes the Main Street project will benefit the entire Colebrook community, noting that it will not only encourage more physical activity and support health, but will likely spur economic growth since more attractive streetscapes and a Main Street that is easier to walk and bike to has the potential to attract more visitors.

This image from CMA Engineers shows how the Colebrook Main Street Project will include new ADA compliant sidewalks, bump-outs, and a bicycle lane (open image in a new tab on your browser to enlarge)

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