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Plans continue to widen Interstate 93 through Concord

Plans to widen Interstate 93 through Concord and Bow could soon take one step closer to reality.

Construction could begin on the project as early as 2018, according to a draft of the latest 10-year plan from the state Department of Transportation, and its funding hinges on increasing tolls. But design work could begin much sooner. A $1.6 million contract for design work will go before the governor and Executive Council for approval in the coming months, said Don Lyford, a project manager for the Department of Transportation.

No design has been set for the project; Lyford said the next phase of work will “come up with one preferred alternative.” The proposed contract is with engineering firm McFarland Johnson.

The project would widen I-93 to three lanes in each direction from Interstate 89 in Bow to between exits 15 and 16 in Concord, according to the draft 10-year plan released yesterday. That work was initially funded in the 10-year plan approved in 2006. It was adjusted in 2008 and dropped in 2010 before planning funding was again moved up in the plan passed last year. The latest draft again advances the project, with design funding scheduled for 2015 and construction set for 2018 through 2022.

But the project’s newest timeline is not final.

Every two years, the Department of Transportation releases a draft plan. A public hearing and revision process could include changes to its many projects, and the plan will not be complete until next June, when it is approved by the Legislature.

“In recent years, we’ve tried to be much more realistic in terms of reflection of what anticipated funding is to be able to pay for those projects,” said Bill Boynton, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation.

Funding to widen I-93 in Concord and Bow, however, depends on increasing tolls and paying for the work with the toll revenue.

Changes to tolls require approval from the governor and Executive Council.

Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, whose district includes Concord, said it’s important to improve I-93 to reduce traffic and increase safety. But he said he would like more information before forming an opinion about a toll increase – and the project as a whole. The process is still only in its early stages, he said.

“We need to get a better sense of what all the trade-offs are and what the cost would be,” Van Ostern said.

The design of a wider I-93 through Concord drew attention several years ago. A planning study released in 2008 explored a number of potential designs. Among the options that the study designated as potentially reasonable: a plan to incorporate Storrs Street into the interchange of I-93 and Interstate 393, and connect Storrs Street with the exit at Loudon Road; and the possibility of building I-93 as a tunnel through Concord.

Lyford said the next phase of design work by McFarland Johnson, which also completed the 2008 study, would build on that previous work. Now that some options have been ruled out, he said, the state can determine which design to pursue.

The state has already done work on I-93 that would accommodate a wider interstate, Lyford said. That includes work on bridges at the interchange of I-93 and I-89 in Bow.

“We know enough about what might happen with this next project that those bridges will be wide enough to handle three lanes in each direction,” he said.

And in rebuilding the bridge where Route 3A crosses I-93 at Exit 12, Lyford said the state designed openings with space for up to four lanes of traffic in each direction. Lyford said the widening project has become a priority as congestion increases.

“It’s an ongoing kind of bottleneck now that we’ve fixed (widened) roads to the south,” he said.

A public meeting about the state’s draft 10-year plan will be held in Concord on Sept. 25. It begins at 7 p.m. at the Department of Transportation on Hazen Drive.

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

There is no tolls on the road going through Concord so are you going to raise the Hookset tolls to pay for this because the original Everett Turnpike ended in Concord. The only reason the Hoooksett tolls still exist is because the Federal government ruled that the portion of I-93 between Concord and the split with Everett turnpike was overlaid by the new I-93. That means you would be using toll revenue to widen an interstate highway which is not part of the toll road network. Why not just make I-93 a toll road at the Mass Border and just south of Exit 5 with High Speed toll lanes and let the users pay for all the widening work so it can get fast tracked and completed?

$1.6 million contract for a design to widen the highway. Why not have a contest with college students, and give the winner $25. thousand?

That is a great idea. I am sure that the civil engineers who are connected with the state influence lobby would not agree. But what a great idea. How about the winner gets his or her student loans paid off.

Sure, a college student's drawings is all a contractor needs to build an interstate through Concord.

you must still have your sarcasm detector in the off position

Well, what ever you do, dont hire the same people that costimated the Concord downtown. I dont believe a student could do worse....

Colleges produce civil engineers and they need experience. Why could a student group not come up with a design and then have an engineering firm approve it. The issue is that many engineering firms are in bed with the state agencies. The good ole boy network is alive and well and many engineering firms over charge. Like the UNH logo which cost $200,000 and students could have designed, the highway project would be harder to come up with but at least the preliminary work could be done for much, much less.

Itsa, there are some topics that you are pretty knowledgeable about but this isn't one of them. I actually work in engineering and construction and would welcome a thorough discussion if only to de-bunk your mistaken assumptions. First, designing a road or highway is much, much more complicated than one would think. There are many aspects to consider: roadway geometry, open and closed drainage systems, pavement design, water, sewer, gas, electrical and other utilities, traffic control, signage, guard rail, constructability, scheduling, compatibility with bridge design, etc, etc. I have worked for five engineering firms and can tell you there is NO good ole boy network. NHDOT is a very tough customer and they do a great job with the resources they have compared to neighboring states. Many engineering firms have given up trying to work in NH because they cannot make a profit. I actually worked for a firm that sued the state for non-payment of services, AND WON! Our industry is EXTREMELY competitive. Profit margins are less than 5% and during the past few years most companies are struggling to keep their doors open. Many, many good engineers and contractors are out of work. If you have actual proof of these allegations at NHDOT, let's see it. Otherwise, all you have are baseless opinions.

Gen x er "Our industry is EXTREMELY competitive. Profit margins are less than 5% and during the past few years most companies are struggling to keep their doors open." Isnt that the same as insurance companies???

Now you're making sense.

Oh, I thought the interstate through Concord was already built. I thought they were just going to widen it.

""Funding to widen I-93 in Concord and Bow, however, depends on increasing tolls and paying for the work with the toll revenue."" NO tolls at all for the I93 widening going on now for the daily Mass. commuters, but get farther into the state and any widening depends 100% on more tolls. ?????

I thought that Obama's stimulus was going to take care of all of this construction. Many of those Mass. commuters take route 3 and already pay tolls, however, I would agree that a toll booth at the border might not be a bad idea.

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