Amid opposition to Langley Parkway in Concord, mayor says there is ‘no great need’ for project
The third phase of Langley Parkway could soon be delayed many years, or removed entirely from Concord’s long-term plans.
Residents voiced strong opposition to the construction of the new road as city engineers presented a planning study this week. But they should stop worrying, Mayor Jim Bouley told a crowd gathered to talk about the project last night.
“There is no money to do this project,” Bouley said. “There is no real will. There is no desire. There is no great need right this second.”
The third phase of the Langley Parkway, which has been in long-term city plans for several decades, would begin at Concord Hospital’s campus on Pleasant Street and extend to the intersection of Penacook, Boutin and North State streets. Construction is scheduled for fiscal years 2017 and 2018 in the city’s capital improvement plan, and also hinges on future city council approval.
Bouley urged residents to contact their city councilors and express a preference for one of two options: Move the project many years into the future of the capital improvement plan or remove it from city plans altogether.
“That, in my opinion, is really the question that you all need to ask yourselves tonight,” Bouley said.
The city’s engineering department held two meetings at Bishop Brady High School this week about the Langley Parkway, because the city and Concord Hospital paid in 2011 for a planning of the potential road.
Gathered before posters depicting the plans, many of the nearly 50 people in attendance last night said they do not want to lose open space or have a loud, fast-moving road through their neighborhood.
“I see a lot of traffic being funneled right through my front yard and a lot of these folks, it looks like our property values are going to plummet being so close to so many lanes of traffic,” said Sarah Robinson, who lives at the corner of Penacook and Rumford streets. “I just see the traffic situation becoming louder and becoming more concentrated in that area.”
An additional 90 people attended a meeting Tuesday, said City Engineer Ed Roberge, and many of them voiced a desire to kill the project.
The land set aside for the third phase of the project is now a dirt road, where residents walk and bike. Many said they worry about the road’s impact on wildlife.
Roberge said Langley Parkway could improve access to other trails and open space, and it would have a wide path alongside it for biking and walking.
“But it’s a decided negative for the hundreds and hundreds of people that use that area right now,” said resident Rick Pollak.
Not all residents at last night’s meeting were opposed to the project.
Roberge said the extension of Langley Parkway could reduce emergency vehicle travel time to Concord Hospital by about eight to 12 minutes. Julie Petty of Penacook said she supports the project for that reason, because her daughter has a medical condition.
“Every moment counts for my daughter,” she said. “Call me selfish, but I’m going to be fighting this tooth and nail because a minute can cost her her life, and I’m not even exaggerating.”
Resident Robert Baker said he was concerned that the parkway would create “a speedway through what used to be a residential area.”
Roberge said the speed limit would be 30 miles per hour, but Baker said he thinks motorists will speed down the road. Others said they worry about pedestrian safety at the end of the parkway near Penacook Street.
“You just really need to work with us because we are trying to be part of a community of people who walk and bike and are part of the downtown culture,” said Meredith Hatfield of Perkins Street.
City councilors who represent the affected neighborhoods and attended meetings this week said they are not convinced the road is necessary. Councilor Amanda Grady Sexton, who represents Ward 4, said she will “absolutely not be supporting this proposal” based on the feedback she heard from constituents. Ward 5 Councilor Rob Werner said yesterday that he wants to keep an open mind during the planning study, but is sensitive to residents’ concerns.
Plans for Langley Parkway began to form decades ago with the goals of relieving congestion, providing a bypass through the city and reducing travel time for emergency vehicles to Concord Hospital.
The third phase is also “really trying to create a better quality of life in these West End neighborhoods by reducing cut-through traffic,” Roberge said.
In 2011, Concord Hospital’s parent company donated half of the $150,000 planning study cost for the project’s third phase. The hospital also paid for the first phase in 1995, and a third of the second phase.
Langley Parkway currently runs from Clinton Street to Pleasant Street. The second phase, completed in partnership with Concord Hospital and St. Paul’s School, began in 2000. It was delayed in court for several years, as the city worked to move a house belonging to the Tuttle family, and the parties could not agree on a new location. The road opened in 2008.
The third phase would cost an estimated $8.25 million for design and construction, with some of that cost coming from the partnership with Concord Hospital.
No further funding has been committed to that third and final phase, which would extend the parkway 2 miles. It would intersect with Pleasant Street, within the hospital campus, and at Auburn, Penacook, Rumford, Bradley and North State streets. Traffic Engineer Rob Mack last night presented options for those intersections that include traffic signals or roundabouts, though he said no decisions have been made.
After Bouley spoke at the end of last night’s meeting, residents asked why meetings were held if the city council is unlikely to complete the project.
Grady Sexton said councilors voted for the planning study, but that does not mean they agreed to build the road. Roberge said holding the meetings is part of the planning study process.
“I can only speak for myself, but I can tell you that when I look at the list of priorities, the things that need to be done in the city, this doesn’t even register,” Bouley said.