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Exit 12 plan moves forward without roundabouts

The state Department of Transportation has abandoned a controversial plan to build roundabouts at Exit 12 of Interstate 93.

The Executive Council voted yesterday to move forward with replacing the existing bridge on Route 3A over I-93 without major changes to traffic patterns. The previous proposal from the DOT to build a narrower bridge with roundabouts on either side faced opposition from the Concord City Council earlier this year.

While the city council does not have control over the project, councilors voted 11-3 to oppose the roundabouts in July. Two days later, the Executive Council rejected a project extension to complete the roundabout design.

Dan St. Hilaire, who is both an executive councilor and at-large city councilor, said he asked the DOT to return to the Executive Council with an alternative plan before the end of his term. (He did not seek re-election this year.)

“I think what’s there now works fine,” St. Hilaire said yesterday. “The only reason why it’s being replaced, really, is because it’s a red-listed bridge.”

The bridge is scheduled for construction in 2014, said Don Lyford, a DOT project manager.

Lyford said a new bridge will be built alongside the existing bridge, which will then be removed. Details are not final, he said, because engineering work hasn’t been done on the new plan. But yesterday’s vote approved a contract for design work.

There may be some changes to the ramps at Exit 12 in the final plan, Lyford said.

“There may be some minor ramp changes to connect back in,” he said.

Lyford said building around the existing bridge will require bends in the road.

“We still think we can smooth them out a little more so it’s not as obvious of a wiggle,” he said.

The revised plan will also cost less than the previous proposal to construct roundabouts, which DOT officials had said would handle increasing traffic over the next few decades. Replacing the bridge will cost about $4 million, officials said, while the roundabouts would have cost $4.5 million.

“For at least the next couple of decades, those roundabouts will really not be needed and actually increase the price of the project,” St. Hilaire said.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

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