Opinion: Phase 3 of Langley Parkway isn’t needed — now or ever

Published: 4/14/2022 6:01:23 AM
Modified: 4/14/2022 6:00:14 AM

Leslie Ludtke lives in Concord.

In the annual State of the City speech to the Chamber of Commerce, the city manager identified the construction of phase 3 of Langley Parkway as a city priority because of the urgency presented by increased fire department ambulance response calls and the proposed Brady Sullivan housing development at the former Lincoln Financial site. He estimated the project cost at between $17 and $18 million. His estimate is based on a 2014 construction cost estimate of approximately $15 million that did not include legal costs, city administrative costs, and eminent domain costs.

Not only is his cost estimate grossly understated, but even if it were not, a cursory review of the facts shows that there is no need whatsoever for phase 3 of Langley Parkway. If it were built the parkway would cause far more harm than benefit to the residents of Concord and would make the budget issue now posed by increases in the school budget and capital budget with the construction of a new middle school all the more pressing.

The city would have its residents believe that increased ambulance response time and the proposal for new construction at the Lincoln Financial site necessitate giving priority to the construction of the parkway. If increased ambulance response time is truly a pressing issue, there are many cheaper and better ways to address this than to spend $20 million on a new road.

The city knows how to address increased ambulance response time (the time it takes an ambulance to reach the call location) because it commissioned a comprehensive study of the fire department that was completed in January 2022 that addressed this issue. This study, referenced by the city manager in his speech, recommended, among other things that a new ambulance be added at the central fire station and that the fire department administrative staffing be increased.

The study noted that administrative staffing for the Concord Fire Department is approximately one-third of the staffing levels that would ordinarily be anticipated, and has not been increased in 20 years. The construction of phase 3 will do nothing to reduce the time it takes an ambulance to respond to a call and will cost many times more than buying a new ambulance and hiring additional staff for the fire department.

Significantly, the fire department study did not even mention the construction of phase 3 as an option to address increased ambulance response calls. In fact, the only parts of Concord that were identified as underserved by ambulances were near Airport Rd. and the western portion of the Pleasant St. medical corridor, areas that are nowhere near the proposed phase 3 road.

Although the city manager says that the need is urgent, the city has not implemented any of the simpler and less expensive recommendations in the report. At the City Council meeting of March 17, the Council approved relocating the ambulance located in Penacook to the North State St. headquarters and voted to postpone any discussion regarding the purchase of an additional ambulance for several months. The March relocation of the ambulance leaves the village of Penacook without local ambulance service.

The city manager’s claim that the proposed Brady Sullivan development of the Lincoln Financial site necessitates the construction of phase 3 fares no better under analysis. If the goal of the road is to bring additional housing to Concord, the housing units that will be lost or destroyed by the road construction must be considered. The present design for the road cuts through an existing residential neighborhood in the vicinity of the Concord Boys and Girls Club and will engender extensive housing losses in that area.

Additionally, the road cuts across the Lincoln Financial site and will result in significant property loss in that area as well. Without further explanation from the city as to why the proposed Brady Sullivan development makes building phase 3 urgent, the manager’s claim remains mystifying.

In his statements, the manager also noted that phase 3 of the Langley Parkway had been in the works for years and that it could no longer be delayed. Again, the facts belie this argument. The parkway project originated from a 70-year-old plan developed by the city to build a Northwest Bypass, which was intended to function as a limited access ring road around Concord. The state permit applications originally submitted for the recent construction of phases 1 and 2 of Langley Parkway were for a limited access ring road, with no curb cuts, and the state permit that was issued allowed for only one curb cut to accommodate the clinic. Concord Hospital has ignored the prohibition on curb cuts and treated Langley as a hospital access road.

As now proposed, phase 3 drops any pretense of functioning as a limited access ring road, and will now function to accommodate new development and provide a third access road to Concord Hospital. This new access road to Concord Hospital will have two large parking lots located on either side of its intersection with Auburn Street and will increase substantially the traffic volume on Auburn Street. The residents of Concord are not the beneficiaries of this third access road. The beneficiary is Concord Hospital.

There is no need and no urgency to construct phase 3 of Langley, now or ever. The construction will cost Concord taxpayers over $20 million, will increase traffic volumes in residential areas (including Auburn Street), will impair recreational use and enjoyment of the Winant trails, and in the end will leave the city with the same ambulance response times. Phase 3 of Langley Parkway should be consigned to the dust heap of ideas that have outlived their time. Put it to rest and let the people enjoy their property without worrying about unnecessary and expensive road construction.

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