WHITEFIELD — King’s Square looks a little different this week.
Crosswalks, signs and traffic islands have been installed in the town center, in order to test concepts designed to slow traffic and improve pedestrian safety.
The temporary “pop-up infrastructure” is a joint effort between the Whitefield Economic Development Corp., North Country Council and Town of Whitefield. It will run through Thursday.
Katie Lamb, transportation planner for North Country Council, said it was the region’s first-ever “pop-up infrastructure” project.
“It’s pretty exciting — and daunting — to do the first ever pop-up in the North Country,” she said.
Pedestrian and traffic safety were identified as priorities in the 2019 Whitefield Master Plan update and a recent WEDC parking survey found that downtown “walkability” was a significant issue.
The pop-up infrastructure allows the town to test ideas and gather opinions before proceeding with more permanent solutions, she said.
Community feedback is being accepted through comment cards (available at Village Gun Store, Sunny & Jillian’s Pizza & Pub, Bank of NH and Our Corner Store) and online at tinyurl.com/WhitefieldPopUps.
“This is the first step towards creating more permanent change,” Lamb said. “And because this is so temporary and easy to change, it really allows ideas to be tested without having to invest too much time or money.”
The pop-up infrastructure project includes three crosswalks (across Route 3, Main Street and Elm Street) two traffic islands and curb extensions.
The crosswalks across Main and Elm feature signage, planters and bump-outs designed to slow traffic and improve pedestrian visibility.
Lamb said there were challenges. Planning took longer than expected and heavy rain washed away some of the temporary paint. However the project has already generated positive comments, she said.
In response to a Facebook post on Tuesday, one person said “I like the slow down effect, and the traffic flow suggested by the pop ups” and another said “I like the increased awareness for all modes of traffic … The plant boxes give a quaint touch.”
Once the pop-up is completed, North Country Council will produce a summary report, which would bolster town grant applications for future studies or projects. The town could also choose to purchase the bollards, signage and planters to continue with temporary traffic controls on a seasonal basis.
Meanwhile, Lamb said, additional pop-up infrastructure in the North Country was likely. Although nothing is planned at the moment, she expressed interest in doing pop-ups in other communities next year.
“All in all it was pretty good and I’d love to do more,” she said.