This is where the rubber doesn’t hit the road. After years of deliberation and debate, construction on a new Main Street rotary started today here in Keene, meaning one of the most congested interchanges in town–the intersection of Main and Winchester/Marlboro Streets–is closed through September.

This means many of my preferred residential dog-walk routes, including usually quiet Grove Street, have turned into major thoroughfares (or virtual parking lots during rush hour) as traffic is re-routed to and from downtown. Heaven help the folks who live on Grove Street and now have a steady stream of slow-moving traffic in their front yards.

One of the things I’ve always liked about Keene is its extreme walkability. I have a five-minute walking commute to and from campus, and I can walk to the bank where I do business, the gym where I take yoga classes, the downtown apothecary where I get prescriptions filled, as well as Keene’s post office, public library, and artsy movie theatre. On weekends, I drive 90+ minutes to go to Zen practice and see my Massachusetts friends, but on weekdays, my car seldom leaves my driveway. Over the next few months, I think I’ll grow increasingly grateful for that fact.

Despite Keene’s walker-friendly design, however, it has always been a vehicularly congested town. Since first coming to teach at the college in 2001, I’ve always wondered how a town of 20,000 could sustain so much traffic: at any given moment, it feels like everyone, their mother, and their dog is driving, separately, on local roads.

In addition to truly local traffic, part of Keene’s seemingly perpetual congestion comes from outlying areas. In addition to folks who drive from surrounding towns to their jobs at the college and various local factories and businesses, a regular stream of emergency vehicles hurries through Keene on their way to and from the only hospital for miles. Heaven help anyone who had a medical emergency this morning and thought they’d zip down Main Street on their way to the hospital.

As a literal dog- and street-walker, I’m used to walking around traffic, relying upon any of a number of pedestrian short-cuts to get to and from pretty much anywhere. But the sheer magnitude of this current project has even me stymied. On any given day, whether on foot or in my car, I normally pass through, by, or along the Main and Winchester/Marlboro intersection at least once during my comings and goings: even my five-minute walk to campus involves this intersection. So today has me studying maps trying to figure out where to walk the dog–and how to get to the post office–without having to navigate a major traffic jam.

To make matters worse, the Main and Winchester/Marlboro rotary is only one of several construction projects happening simultaneously this summer in Keene. There’s also a rotary-in-progress at the intersection of Winchester Street and Route 101: another interchange that was a traffic snafu even before construction began. And on West Street, they’re widening the road, which will be a relief when construction is complete but is another traffic headache in the meantime.

The cumulative effect of all this road construction is a logic problem of daunting proportions: to get into or across town, you first have to figure out how to drive around town. Figuring out how to navigate Detour X to get from Point A to Point B will make this one interesting summer. And as a polite and ever-helpful dog- and street-walker, heaven help me when it comes to giving directions to confused tourists. Maybe I should take as my personal slogan the statement so popular up in Maine: “Ya cahn’t get theyah from heyah!”

This afternoon, contemplating a quick dog-walk to the bank and back, I thought I’d avoid vehicular back-ups by taking the rail-to-trail bikepath that runs through my almost backyard. But wouldn’t you know it, that’s under construction, too. Heaven help us all.