Work on a new roundabout at Winchester Street and Key Road in Keene is slated to start this month and is expected to last until November, according to City Engineer Donald Lussier.
Traffic along that area of Winchester Street will be reduced to one lane during construction, Lussier said.
“People will still be able to get where they’re going, businesses will be able to get their customers in and out,” Lussier said Thursday. “Our hope is that people not actually going to businesses at Key Road or at Riverside Plaza will find a different way around rather than go through that corridor. So hopefully that will alleviate some of the traffic.”
The roundabout to replace the signalized intersection is one of two being planned for Winchester Street. The other will be at the intersection of Island and Pearl streets, and Lussier said construction is expected to begin next spring. Estimated at about $10.7 million, and also including the reconstruction of the Island Street Bridge, the N.H. Department of Transportation will fund about 80 percent of the project, with the city covering the remaining costs. Lussier said work on the first roundabout will start June 20 or June 27.
The project’s commencement comes after the city won an eminent-domain case in April against Sandri Companies, which owns the Sunoco gas station at that intersection.
Keene officials had sought to negotiate the purchase of about 1,000 square feet of Sandri’s property for the roundabout. But when it became clear the company wouldn’t sell the property, the City Council initiated eminent-domain proceedings in January 2021.
Under eminent domain, a government can take private property by force if it will be put to public use and as long as the landowner receives just compensation.
Sandri expressed concern about the impact the roundabout will have on the gas station, since one of the two entrances to the business off Winchester Street will need to be removed to accommodate the project.
“This is a very profitable business venture for the [Sandri] family; it consists of a gasoline station as well as a convenience store,” Michael Hanley, an attorney representing Sandri Companies, said in a public hearing before the City Council in December 2020. “The impact of the proposal will be to turn the convenience store into an inconvenience store.”
The city had argued the roundabout will decrease traffic delays at the intersection from an average of about 54.8 seconds on weekday evenings and 81 seconds on Saturdays at midday to about 16.7 seconds and 23.8 seconds, respectively.
Judge Elizabeth Leonard of Cheshire County Superior Court ruled that the potential harm to Sandri was outweighed by the benefits.
Anyone who wishes to receive updates on the roundabout’s construction can sign up to do so on the city’s website.