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Concord officials seek more input on Langley Parkway

The Langley Parkway is back in the spotlight this fall, drawing strong opposition from many residents as engineers present a planning study for the road’s third and final phase.

Engineers will hold a final public meeting tomorrow night to gather input about that study before delivering a report to the city council.

But the fate of the project when it goes before the city council early next year is uncertain.

Mayor Jim Bouley told residents at a meeting last month that the project will likely be delayed or removed from the long-term plans because there is neither funding nor desire to complete it immediately.

Bouley said yesterday that the council will consider Langley Parkway the same way it reviews all capital improvement projects.

“And our choices really are: to not do something at all; to keep it where it is in the plan; or to move it out,” he said. “That’s why Thursday night is important, if people have an opinion, to come and see the presentation and share their thoughts.”

Residents speaking out against the road’s extension from Pleasant Street to the intersection of Penacook and North State streets have said they do not want to lose open space and see a parkway through what is now a dirt road used for recreation.

Others, including the Transportation Policy Advisory Committee and some residents, have voiced support for the road. Though their voices have been quieter than those opposed to the plan, they have pointed to benefits of extending Langley Parkway: improved emergency access to Concord Hospital; a reduction in greenhouse gases if vehicles use that road instead of side streets; and relief from congestion and neighborhood cut-through traffic.

“I think all the voices will be heard, there’s no question,” Bouley said. “And it’s up to the individual councilors to, you know, weigh what they’ve heard and make their decision.”

The third phase of the decades-old Langley Parkway plan would span 2 miles and is scheduled for construction in 2017 and 2018 in the city’s capital improvement plan. Traffic signals were installed at Pleasant Street as a small first phase of the project in 1995, and a second phase between Clinton and Pleasant streets opened in 2008 after years of delay and legal battles.

The public meetings this fall are the result of a planning study that began in 2011. The city and Concord Hospital each paid half of the $150,000 cost of the study, which has drawn mixed reactions.

One Auburn Street resident asked neighbors to consider paying a private consultant $10,000 to lobby against the project. There is no indication that the idea gained traction or led to hiring the consultant, but neighbors in that area continue to voice opposition to the road.

Councilor Amanda Grady Sexton, whose Ward 4 would be affected by the parkway extension, has said she opposes the project.

“I continue to hear a number of concerns, primarily about the environmental impact and about the reduction of open space from neighbors and from residents throughout the city,” she said.

Speaking in favor of the project, one Penacook resident who stood up at a meeting last month said her daughter has a medical condition and often needs to travel to the hospital by ambulance. Engineers have said the road would reduce emergency travel time to the hospital by eight to 12 minutes.

Councilor Jan McClure said she has heard from some residents that emergency travel to the hospital is a concern. She represents Ward 3, which borders the northern end of the proposed parkway extension.

“It is something that I heard about from constituents when I was going door to door” before the election, McClure said. “Two or three of them actually brought that up and thought that it was a really important thing that we reduce the ambulance travel time.”

Dick Lemieux, chairman of the Transportation Policy Advisory Committee, said residents and city councilors should keep an open mind about the project. His committee, which advises the city council on all transportation projects, has ranked the Langley Parkway as a high priority since the committee formed in 2008.

“It’s for traffic flow, it’s for reducing travel time to the hospital,” Lemieux said. “Multiply that by the number of vehicles that come and go to the hospital every day, it’s a huge savings in gasoline, in pollution, in greenhouse gases and all of that.”

Engineers have said the project would reduce cut-through traffic in the surrounding neighborhoods.

But some residents fear the project would have the opposite effect, Grady Sexton said.

“They believe that what will happen is more people will be drawn to use the parkway that would not otherwise be brought into the neighborhoods, and they’ll enter from all different points in the parkway,” she said. “So they believe it will actually be more traffic coming into their area.”

Residents who live closer to the hospital in residential areas along School Street raised concerns about neighborhood cut-through traffic several years ago, and engineers responded at the time that the next phase of Langley Parkway would provide relief.

“And my understanding is there are still some people in that part of Ward 5 who remain in favor of Langley Parkway,” said Ward 5 Councilor Rob Werner. “But I think it’s probably fair to say that the louder voices at this point have been people who live closer to where the road would be.”

Werner said he sympathizes with residents who oppose the road extension, but he also understands the need to reduce travel time to the hospital.

“Anytime you can save lives, I think you need to take a look at that,” Werner said. “At the same time, I understand the concerns that residents have, particularly those who abut it.”

McClure said cut-through traffic could increase in Ward 3, on the edge of the extended Langley Parkway. She said she wants to learn more before deciding how to vote on the project.

“I think there’s a lot of different concerns depending upon where people live and how the proposed route affects their home and lives,” she said.

Byron Champlin, who will become the Ward 4 councilor in January, said he is interested to learn more tomorrow from people living everywhere in the city; two meetings last month were meant for neighborhoods directly affected by the proposed road construction. He said he has had “conversations with people who passionately believe it’s a good idea,” but also heard from residents who oppose it.

Tomorrow’s public meeting about the Langley Parkway begins at 6 p.m. in the city council’s chambers on Green Street.

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

Legacy Comments9

This plan makes more sense than the previously completed southern leg. It would appear to more prudent to just purchase the houses affected on penacook street and make the connection sooner. The added cost of the residential purchases would be somewhat offset by savings in construction cost.

Checkout the city maps. All of the property owned between Auburn Street and the hospital and to the South and East of current dirt road is owned by Concord Hospital. Some of property is zoned as conservation land but most of it is not. A large portion of this land was purchased by Concord Hospital on 4/27/1988. "Traffic signals were installed at Pleasant Street as a small first phase of the project in 1995." This in my opinion is about the further development of the healthcare facility, Concord Hospital.

I'm not sure I understand why the further development of Concord Hospital, one of the city's largest employers, is a bad thing?

It won't happen because the beautiful people on snob hill don't want it. It doesn't matter if it is needed, which it is, it's just because they don't like it. Maybe a better idea would be to move Concord Hospital to a more suiting part of town.

Just one minor example of why Concord needs the parkway extension...The amount of people who take a left out of Concord Hospital and then cut through the neighborhoods to get to School Street is astounding to me considering the amount of children that play next to those roads. When one of those kids gets whacked we will be having a different conversation. For the greater good I think the people in Ward 4 are going to have to deal with it . The "not in my back yard" crowd is always the most vocal. Why would you expect this to be different?

Moe, have you thought about the children trying to access the Boys & Girls club, nearby park and pool at the end of Penacook street? How will they safely navigate the increase in traffic of 10,000 cars per year? These children are as important as those that live on School Street, aren't they?

They are just as important. I was thinking a crosswalk with traffic signal would be the normal way to handle what you mention.

I very much sympathize with the residents in not wanting thier quiet and nature interrupted, but they do live in a city and location where this has been in the plans for many, many years. I live on a street that was going to have a new street cross it, but is now has been sold to the highest bidder and houses will be built in a beautiful wooded area. If the locals want to preserve it as is, buy it. Otherwise accept that the land will be used to meet public needs. Regarding public needs and ambulance access to the hospital, I have taken that left-right-left-right approach in an ambulance and being badly injured - every turn hurt. Yesterday while driving to the hospital, I watched an ambulance get stuck in bottled traffic at the Centre street rotary and then again at the Fruit street traffic light. Local residents may think this is not their problem, but they are well outnumbered by the emergencies that would benefit by the new road. I'm sorry, but I side with the ambulances on this one.

For many years I've thought it's more frustrating to drive north & south through Concord than through Manchester. Look a map; there are many, more n/s routes you can take through Manchester. Concord routes more resemble a bottleneck. There is a good reason to move ahead with this project.

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