The Governor’s Advisory Commission of Intermodal Transportation (GACIT) held a Public Hearing in Londonderry Thursday, Sept. 12. It was the fourth out of 20 hearings that will be held around the state in September and October to discuss the update to the state’s Ten Year Transportation Improvement Plan of 2021-2030. The GACIT is interested in hearing the public’s opinions and concerns.
In December, after revisions, the Ten Year Plan will go to the governor and it will be adopted into law in June, 2020.
Peter Stamnas, Director of Project Development for the Department of Transportation, spoke about the department strategies for the Ten Year Plan, such as addressing major project cost increases (one of them being Exit 4A). Following that presentation, Nate Miller, from the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission (SNHPC), presented the region’s projects.
Miller said that based on the revenue projections that the DOT has put together for this Ten Year Plan (TYP); the SNHPC is working under a framework of about $8.5 million for projects in the region. The commission has two goals: advocate to NHDOT that the major projects that were happening in the region, like the I-93 expansion, were completed and fully funded in the TYP. Also, taking a hard look at the projects that were in the current TYP, whether they had the funding needed to get them to the finish line. Miller said they have identified multiple projects that were clearly underfunded in the current TYP and that the commission is committed that the $8.5 million go for the funding of these projects, in order to bring them closer to where they should be and avoid creating future issues by putting new projects in the TYP, while current ones are not ready.
For Londonderry, Miller presented several current projects and a new one. He said that Exit 4A will get a funding increase and its construction is currently scheduled for Fiscal Years 2021-2024. He added that in the last cycle, two years ago, two projects in town were added to the Ten Year Plan – The improvement of the intersection of Route 28 and Route 128 and the improvement of the intersection of Route 28 and Stonehenge Road. The first project is programmed for $1.7 million in cost and construction in Fiscal Year 2028. The second, which has been an issue in town in the last few months, is programmed for $1.675 million with construction in Fiscal Year 2021.
Miller repeated the state’s stand and claims that Londonderry will be giving 50 percent of the funding for the Route 28/Stonehenge project. The original estimated cost of the project was $1.1 million and the town agreed to use a grant it received from the state for $519,000, in highway monies, to pay for its half of the project.
However, since then it was realized that the total cost will be much higher, now at $1.675, and the town will need approximately $300,000 to complete its half of the funding, with the state funding the rest. In a Town Council meeting in May, Town Council Chair John Farrell directed Town Manager Kevin Smith to cross off the adjusted amount in the contract the town received from the DOT for this project, and write in the previous agreed amount of $519,000.
At the GACIT hearing, in response to Miller’s presentation, Smith said that the town still does not have that extra money and that its current plan is to ask for the voter’s approval on the 2020 March elections for the additional funding. If that warrant article will not pass, the project, which has been planned for several years now and is essential for the safety in that intersection, may be in jeopardy, with the $519,000 grant money going to a different project instead.
Smith also asked the Department of Transportation to have a revised estimation for the total cost of the Rt. 28/Stonehenge project before the March elections, so that the town could know exactly how much money is needed: “We are only going to get one bite of the apple on this one and we want to make sure that we have the right amount down”, said the Town Manager to the Councilors.
He added that the town was informed about a month ago that the cost of the Exit 4A project increased significantly, but that the state is fully funding that increase and asked the council to see if there is a way to move the Rt. 28/Rt. 128 intersection project higher on the list, before Fiscal Year 2028.
The new project, appearing for the first time in the Ten Year Plan, as a result of the town’s successful 2018 Transportation Alternatives Program application, is the construction of a multi-use path along the side of Harvey Road, Webster Road. and Grenier Field Rd.. That path will connect to the trail from Manchester and is programmed for $1.358 million, with construction in Fiscal Year 2025.
Regarding that, Smith asked why, if both Londonderry and Manchester already approved the funding for the Rail Trail projects, construction is only slated for 2025, when costs will go up. The answer he received was that there will be an effort to advance projects that are ready to go and have already completed the full design and development process. If both communities are indeed ready with their parts of the project, the department will do everything in its power to start construction sooner than the scheduled Fiscal Year.