City council to determine fate of Loudon Road
The city council will decide tonight whether to shrink Loudon Road from four lanes to three.
If approved, the new Loudon Road would have a single lane of traffic in each direction, a center turning lane and 5-foot-wide shoulders on each side for bicyclists. City staff has advocated for a project it says will make the busy road safer for drivers, bikers and pedestrians.
But several Heights residents opposed the project at a public meeting in December, saying the proposed lane reduction would slow traffic and make left turns difficult.
If the council approves the project, construction would begin in spring 2015. If the council votes the project down, City Manager Tom Aspell said the city would have to “live with the fact that we have one of the most dangerous roads in the state.”
Aspell said the project would reduce the number of accidents on a road traveled by about 20,000 drivers every day.
State officials have reported about 100 accidents a year on the busy corridor just between Hazen and D’Amante drives, and Aspell said about 25 percent of the accidents in the community happen on Loudon Road.
“That’s really what this is, a safety project,” Aspell said.
The project would be paid for mostly by a state Department of Transportation grant for about $1.44 million. The city would have to cover 10 percent of the cost, or $160,000.
The state has agreed to foot most of the bill for the lane reduction because the changes would make the road safer, Aspell said. But if the council votes against the project, Concord would need to find $1 million in its own budget to pay for necessary updates to the road as it exists now.
That money could be spent to repave and improve neighborhood streets instead, Aspell said. The city completed projects in the South End and on streets north of Centre Street, but Aspell said it’s been about six years since the city set aside money to continue that work on local roads. Instead, those dollars – about $1.1 million a year – have gone to improvements to heavily traveled roads such as Manchester Street and North State Street – and in this case, they would go to Loudon Road.
“If the council says, ‘Do not accept the money for fixing Loudon Road,’ that will delay getting back to the neighborhoods,” Aspell said.
Councilor Candace Bouchard, whose Ward 9 is on the Heights, said she found a computer model by city engineers on the new Loudon Road traffic flow to be convincing. The three-lane plan looks like it could be a better design for the road, she said.
But she encouraged residents to share their opinions at tonight’s city council meeting.
“I want to hear it all. I want to hear the engineers go over the plan again and why they think it would work, and hear once again the concern for the people coming up to testify for or against it,” she said.
The goal shared by everyone, Bouchard said, is to make Loudon Road less dangerous. Ward 8 Councilor Gail Matson, who also represents residents of the Heights, could not be reached for comment.
“I think everyone up here wants the safest roads for vehicles and pedestrians,” Bouchard said.
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)