Opposition to Langley Parkway extension remains strong
Dozens of Concord residents delivered a strong message last night about the potential extension of Langley Parkway: They do not want the city to spend money and eliminate open space to build the road, and they do not believe it is necessary to alleviate congestion and cut-through traffic.
About 120 people packed the city council chamber for a third and final public meeting about extending Langley Parkway from Pleasant Street to the intersection of Penacook and North State streets. Most expressed opposition as engineers presented benefits of building the parkway, which is now a dirt path used for recreation.
City Engineer Ed Roberge will now deliver a report to the city council, along with the results of a planning and traffic study.
The project’s fate is uncertain, and its schedule will likely change when the city considers its capital improvement plan next year.
The road is now scheduled for construction in 2017 and 2018. But Mayor Jim Bouley told residents last month that there “is no real will” to complete the project, and said it could be delayed or removed entirely from long-term plans.
The third phase of the 50-year-old Langley Parkway plan would span 2 miles and would cost $12-14 million, Roberge said.
Two meetings last month, which focused on neighborhoods that abut the proposed road, also drew strong opposition. Last night, Roberge spoke about the overall benefits of the project: relief from congestion and cut-through traffic in residential neighborhoods, and reduced travel time to Concord Hospital.
Langley Parkway has been “the common denominator” of solutions as engineers met with residents and businesses in several different neighborhoods in the past decade, Roberge said. About 10,000 cars cut through the side streets on the west end of downtown, he said, which would be reduced if Langley Parkway provided access to the hospital, offices on the state hospital campus and Concord High School.
Fire Chief Dan Andrus said city ambulances make about two transports to the hospital per day with patients who require sirens and urgent treatment. Engineers have estimated that the road would reduce travel time to the hospital by as much as eight to 12 minutes, and Andrus told residents last night that it would especially improve access to the hospital from areas such as Penacook.
Steve Kaitz, a family physician, said he would be “completely in favor” of the Langley Parkway if it would save as much as 10 minutes in ambulance travel time. But he doubted the engineers’ calculations, and said it would only save as much as one minute based on his own estimates.
“It makes me frankly a little dubious about what else are they telling us,” Kaitz said.
Roberge cautioned residents from using their own calculations and preferred routes to measure the impact of Langley Parkway.
The city has “long-term need to improve capacity along Pleasant Street,” Roberge said. He said crashes are an issue along Pleasant Street and Warren Street, and a few Concord High School teachers have been hit by cars in the past few years while walking on Pleasant Street.
“The traffic is already there,” he said. “We’re not talking about any new traffic generators that we would expect. That traffic is here today.”
Many residents at last night’s meeting who live near Auburn Street remained skeptical of the project’s impact.
Roberge said the parkway would have a wide sidewalk for bicycles and pedestrians on one side, and would improve access to open space. Frank Betchart of Ridge Road disagreed, and said the Langley Parkway extension could bring new safety issues for pedestrians who use the area to access Winant Park.
“A 10-foot-wide recreational path on the north and west side of this parkway is not going to address that cut-through pedestrian traffic into what I consider the crown jewel of the Concord trail system,” Betchart said.
Not all residents were opposed to the new road last night. A resident of Havenwood-Heritage Heights said she and many other seniors travel frequently to see doctors at Concord Hospital, and would benefit from the Langley Parkway.
David Parker, owner of Parker Acacemy, said cut-through traffic is a problem near his home on Merrimack Street, as is congestion near his office on Pleasant Street.
“It would be sad if some of that (open space) would be taken away, but it’s not about the three minutes to the hospital,” Parker said. “It’s the thousands and thousands of cars that are flowing through our neighborhoods all the time to get to that section of town.”
The public meetings this fall were the result of a planning study that began in 2011, when the city council voted to split its $150,000 cost with Concord Hospital.
A small first phase of the project – traffic signals at Pleasant Street – was completed in 1995, and a second phase between Clinton and Pleasant streets opened in 2008 after years of delay and legal battles.
Some residents accused Roberge last night of pushing for the road’s completion and presenting a biased view. He assured them that city councilors make the final decision, while it is his job to present them with the planning study and public input.
“And clearly, after three meetings it’s clear that the public does not support this project for a whole host of different reasons,” Roberge said. “I don’t carry that bias. I hope I don’t.”