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.