The intersection of Broadway (NH Route 28) with Main Street (NH Route 97), otherwise known as the Depot Intersection, has been plagued by traffic congestion and delays for many years. Additionally, the Depot Intersection has the highest vehicle crash rate of any intersection in Salem. The intersection has been identified as one of the busiest New Hampshire. The project has a 25-year history of planning and development. In 1995 the Town and New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) partnered to present the Depot Intersection Reconstruction Project to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The NHDOT and FHWA saw the need for reconstruction and authorized funding for preliminary engineering (PE) to redesign and reconstruct the Depot Intersection. The project would be funded with 80% covered by NHDOT through FHWA and the remaining 20% covered by the Town of Salem, provided the project commenced to construction no later than 10 years from initial award (1995). Shortly thereafter in 1996, the Salem Board of Selectmen (BOS) agreed to provide 20% of the project funding and work with the NHDOT as the Project Manager. The NHDOT presented the Depot Intersection Improvement Plan to the BOS in November 1999 and set the project in motion.
Over the next several years the project continued through PE, Right-of-Way (ROW) Acquisition, and conceptual design phases. Meanwhile, the Town, through its Planning Board, adopted the Depot Intersection Redevelopment Concept Plan which served as a catalyst to move the project forward. A radius around the Depot Intersection was established to designate an area for enhancement to compliment the roadway improvements. These enhancement include, among other things, additional turn lanes, roadway widening, and enhanced signal timing. In March 2012, Salem entered into an agreement with NHDOT to become the Project Sponsor thus taking the lead in managing the project and engineering efforts. The project faced a series of challenges including permitting and ROW Acquisitions. the project began construction in 2021. Physical construction duration of the project was roughly 2 years ending in the summer of 2023.
In advance of the actual intersection project the Right-of-Way acquisition process acquired seven properties on the east side of the road. Following acquisition a separate demolition project was completed to remove existing buildings to make way for the intersection improvements. The Town also made efforts to relocate all overhead utilities underground. The utility relocation project was a significant undertaking and dramatically improved safety and appearance of the overall area.
Each of these projects continues the realization of a vision that began 25-years ago. As the Town contemplates future projects with abutting intersection designs and connector roads (Depot Ring Roads projects) the overall area continues to revitalize and transform into an appealing, attractive, safe, and functional central downtown.