On Sept. 14, the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Intermodal Transportation (GACIT) presented its draft plans for the next Ten Year Plan, which includes two projects that will majorly affect the town of Londonderry: the construction of exit 4a off I-93 and the renovation of the intersection at Route 128 and Route 28.
While these two projects, and other aspects of the Ten Year Plan such as road and bridge conditions, were spoken about extensively, there were two topics that some residents in attendance wished had more of a presence in the Ten Year Plan; an emphasis on senior transportation and funding for the rail trails in New Hampshire.
Easter Seals Vice President of Special Transit Services Fred Roberge approached the microphone at Londonderry Town Hall to explain that transportation is “more than roads and bridges” and that a huge part of transportation, particularly for the population of New Hampshire, is for the elderly.
“It’s very important to create access in communities for those who need it most, particularly for those who don’t drive,” he said.
In Londonderry, the CART pilot program – a public transportation system that services Londonderry, Chester, Derry, Hampstead, and Salem – was extended through Oct. 31 to see if its implementation is warranted by the amount of use it receives.
Roberge said that “Londonderry should be commended for their care to make sure that the senior population has access to essential services. They’ve done a lot of work with creating programs that will supplement public transit in order to meet that need.”
He said he would like to see this sort of transportation and public transit geared toward seniors throughout the state, allowing seniors to maintain their independence.
“It can sometimes make the difference between institutionalization and remaining active in their communities,” he said.
Roberge believes public transit would benefit from the type of money given to state road or bridge projects. He would like to see GACIT recommend that all state departments participate in reviewing the existing funds for transportation and work together to put some of it towards transportation and services for seniors.
“Recent surveys have shown that public support is there, particularly for extending services for seniors and those with disabilities,” he concluded.
New Hampshire State Representative Bob Rimol, from Londonderry, took to the microphone next about the frustration within the rail trail community that the trails are not included in the Ten Year Plan for transportation. Rimol is one of the people committed to building the rail trail in Londonderry, and said that compared to other states, New Hampshire is “lagging far behind” in the paving of rail trails.
He gave the examples of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, who are all making strides in completing their rail trails because the state drives a lot of the projects. Right now, in New Hampshire, particularly Londonderry, the projects are driven by the towns and grassroot groups.
Londonderry has Londonderry Trailways, a nonprofit comprised of citizen volunteers “dedicated to improving access to trails for recreational use in the community of Londonderry.” They are currently in the process of beginning Phase 4 of the project, but are waiting for supplies.
“If Texas or Florida need traffic signals we are going to be a low priority,” said Pollyann Winslow, a volunteer for Londonderry Trailways.
Phase 4 of the project includes a pedestrian crossing beacon for Route 28.
“We are at the mercy of the state,” explained Winslow. Since Route 28 is a state highway, the volunteers must work with the state and use state highway approved suppliers.
So far, the group and town has raised $1 million of the $3 million needed to complete the six-mile project.
“It’s really hard to get that money through fundraising and grants,” Rimol said.
Rimol would like to see more attention given to the state rail trail projects in the Ten Year Transportation Plan, but would also like to see a change in the mindset of New Hampshire’s Department of Transportation where they begin to drive the programs.
“It’s happening, just so slow,” he said.
New Hampshire Executive Councilor Christopher Pappas thanked those of the public that voiced their opinions on these matters, and said that this is why they have public hearings for GACIT – to get the public’s input.