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Three-lane Loudon Road could become reality in 2014

With the help of a federal grant, Loudon Road could be reduced from four lanes to three by the end of 2014.

The concept is not new; it was controversial when suggested by consultants in a 2001 study. But with federal funds now available to cover 90 percent of the nearly $1.6 million project, the plan is back. If approved by the city council early next year, City Engineer Ed Roberge said construction could begin next summer.

Reducing Loudon Road to three lanes between its intersections with Airport Road and D’Amante Drive would increase safety along a road where drivers now frequently rear-end one another or get into sideswiping accidents while changing lanes, Roberge said.

“Just a whole array of issues that are related to multiple lanes like that – aggressive speed, aggressive drivers,” he said. “By reducing the lanes and introducing somewhat safer sight distances (and) safer driving lines, there’s a calmness. . . . We hope that it slows traffic down, not to the point that it diminishes a significant amount of capacity, but it makes it safer.”

Councilor Candace Bouchard, whose Ward 9 borders Loudon Road, said traffic modeling from the city’s engineering department shows that “traffic actually moves more smoothly” on the three-lane road, and that the new design would reduce the number of accidents. But the council still needs to decide whether to move forward with project, she said.

“From what I’ve seen from the three lanes, I do support it,” Bouchard said. “But . . . I hope anybody that’s interested in the Loudon Road reconfiguration will come to the public hearing and voice their concerns, because what the neighbors and the businesses think is most important.”

A $1.44 million federal grant through the Highway Safety Improvement Program, which targets the most dangerous roads in each state, was approved by Gov. Maggie Hassan and the Executive Council earlier this month for the Loudon Road redesign.

City engineers will hold a public meeting about the plans in December. The project will likely go before the city council for a public hearing and vote in February, Roberge said.

Though the federal grant is available, the project is not final until the city council’s approval. That vote would appropriate funds for the project and authorize City Manager Tom Aspell to enter into an agreement with the state and federal governments for the remaining portion. A federal grant from the Highway Safety Improvement Program will cover 90 percent of the nearly $1.6 million project, and the city government will cover the remaining 10 percent, or roughly $155,000, in bonds.

In Ward 8, which also borders Loudon Road, Councilor Dick Patten would like to hear from constituents before forming an opinion about the three-lane proposal. But “it’s worth something to look into” the plan, he said in an interview last week, because there are currently too many accidents.

Patten is facing two challengers in the Nov. 5 city election. Dennis Soucy told the Monitor this month that he supports the three-lane plan. Gail Matson said she was not familiar with the proposal, but would be interested in efforts to relieve congestion on Loudon Road.

There are more than 100 accidents along Loudon Road each year, according to a letter that state Department of Transportation Commissioner Christopher Clement wrote to Hassan and the Executive Council. (The state’s data only includes accidents with injuries or more than $1,000 in damage.)

“Both the motorist and the pedestrian feel unsafe on Loudon Road, and the cyclist clearly has no place there at all,” stated the city’s 2001 study, completed by a private consultant.

The three-lane proposal resurfaced last year, when the city learned that federal funding could be available for the project. Roberge said it was put on hold until 2014 while the city completed a water main replacement project along Loudon Road. (The second phase of that project is under way this fall.)

While formal designs would not begin until after a city council vote, Roberge said the three-lane plan would not include changes at major intersections. The intersections of Loudon Road with East Side Drive and Airport Road, for example, would still have multiple lanes and function like they do today.

Three-lane designs have worked on Manchester Street and North State Street, Roberge said.

Roberge said the lane reduction plan would allow space for cyclists, and offer more space between driveways and the travel lanes, making it easier to turn in and out of businesses along the road.

“I have an adage that a four-lane road is really dictated by the aggressive driver,” he said, while speeds along a three-lane road are set by the prudent drivers.

The design would not increase congestion, Roberge said, but it would guarantee a safer road. Interstate 393 and the extension of Regional Drive also relieve congestion from Loudon Road, Roberge said, as noted in the 2001 study.

“We think that the focus on making the Heights and that Loudon Road corridor a much more livable corridor really has to rely on . . . safety,” he said.

Bouchard, the Ward 9 councilor, said she hopes the project could also include beautification along Loudon Road.

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

If cities did not invent these far fetched ideas, civil engineers would be fewer in number. It should be left alone.

If memory serves, this is the same thing they had tried on a section of RT. 3 in Hooksett in the '60's. An east/west and turn lane, in the area of the old China Dragon and Riley's Gun Shop. Talk about reinventing what didn't work then because of all the accidents. I'd vote for leaving it alone, you can't idiot proof a section of road because people can't drive safely. Kind of shoots down your comment, eh Sail.

For the RECORD : Based on that comment you now have unequivocally stated you are in fact a liberal democrat . However we do acknowledge another crack in the leftist armor - maybe there is hope.

While 3 lanes would be more orderly, I wonder about the parade of traffic that would result in the travel lane and how that would block left turns and turns into traffic from the opposing side merchant parking lots. Gaps for making turns may be few and far between. Will people be patient or will they learn to cut-off on-coming traffic like they do in Massachusetts?

This project should occur before the Main Street project , it would be best to only waste $1.6 million before delving into the $ 10 million Main Street debacle. It will be very evident these designs are not an efficient way to move vehicles and the drivers who are frequenting the businesses. I.E. Both Elm Street and Second Street Manchester currently have the same failed lane configurations as our recently departed planner was dreaming about here before she fled town.

What would your plan be? Just leave it as it is? Seriously.

What a novel idea :"Just leave it as it is"....those words will never ever be found uttered from a liberal democrats mouth.

So... you think a minimum of $100,000 per year in accident damage on one road is acceptable, sail? I thought conservatives were supposed to be fiscally prudent. This seems entirely wasteful to me. Do you own a body shop? (That's a rhetorical question.)

Being a conservative (fearing change), you probably would just as rather it was still a cow path.

If the road can't be enlarged to 4 travel lanes and one turning lane then this is the best alternative. Cars going east and west constantly back up traffic behind them when they turn and cars in their lane cut out and cut off traffic in the other lane. Another suggestion I have, though I know it is not Concord, is why when getting off 393 going east on Rte 4 does it go down to one lane just before Super Shoes and then open up again by Weathervane to 2 lanes? This causes a bottle neck everyday between 4 and 5:30 sometimes right back onto 393. Seems like plenty of room to make it 2 lanes. Just wondering.

“From what I’ve seen from the three lanes, I do support it,” Bouchard said. “But . . . I hope anybody that’s interested in the Loudon Road reconfiguration will come to the public hearing and voice their concerns, because what the neighbors and the businesses think is most important.” I have to say since when does it matter what the people think, They will do what they want. Can you imagine what traffic would be on this road with only 3 lanes? It is obvious none of the engineers travel this road.

I can imagine it - I imagine it being much easier to make turns without feeling like a squirrel trying to dodge two lanes of on-coming cars. I imagine not getting rear-ended (again) when stopped in traffic to try and make that turn. I imagine not rear-ending someone else (again) because they were stopped and the tall opaque van in back of them switched to the other lane, suddenly leaving nothing between me and the stopped car. I say yes! to 3-lane.

A lot of collisions happen on Loudon Road when someone in the inner lane waves on a driver in the opposite lane trying to make a left turn. The left turner makes the turn, not seeing a third car barreling towards them in the outermost lane. pause I wish I could draw a picture as I think I'm not explaining this very well. I've always been impressed with how terrible Concord's traffic engineering is and three lanes seemed initially like a bad idea to me. But when I thought about it... it may make sense. Just to underscore it all, my husband saw a fender bender right outside his Loudon Road office window yesterday.

when the liberal uses antidote evidence for a whole sale massive expensive change then you know they have lost all perspective. Thank god for conservative thinking to thwart the daily liberal knee jerk reactive policies. How did that massive expensive downtown beautification project work out for the citizens. Meanwhile the Concord Monitors bridge rots away

This is exactly my reaction/thought as well. Why bother?

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