Public gets a look at plans for widening I-93 in Concord

  • This is one of many visual renderings of proposed changes as part of the expansion of I-93 through Concord. This shows proposed changes to Loudson Road going underneath the highway, as seen from the east. Courtesy—McFarland Johnson

Monitor staff
Saturday, February 17, 2018

The long process of widening Interstate 93 through Bow and Concord took another step forward, as scores of people attended two local informational hearings last week to learn more about the plan.

The hearings were the first public presentation of the “preferred alternative” proposal created by engineering firm McFarland Johnson, based in part on public input from a gathering held last year.

“We’re still compiling the comments from the meetings,” said Gene McCarthy, an engineer overseeing the project.

While the main point of the $260 million project is to add an extra lane in each direction on about four miles of the turnpike to ease congestion at peak traffic times, much of the complication and cost comes from related redesign and reconstruction of five exits, ranging from the Interstate 89 interchange in Bow north to Exit 15. Some of it would be relatively minor, such as creating two roundabouts at the end of the ramps on Exit 12, but the Bow interchange and the nearly overlapping exits 14 and 15 would see major changes.

McFarland Johnson is preparing environmental statements about its plan, which will probably be released in April. Formal public hearings on the proposal are scheduled for May, McCarthy said.

Construction isn’t slated to begin until 2024 and will take at least a decade.

I-93 was expanded to six lanes up to Bow decades ago. This project would widen it to six lanes through the city, with an extra “adjacent” lane between most of the exits creating seventh and eighth lanes south of Exit 14.

The various steps will have to be approved by the Executive Council and governor, and will raise questions of finance, since less than a quarter of the necessary money has been earmarked in the state’s 10-year highway plan.

Details about the proposal can be seen on the website i93bowconcord.com.

The website includes a computer-generated video “drive-through” that can be seen on YouTube, but that video describes earlier variations of the plan and is not an accurate depiction of the proposal that the engineering firm is now working on, McCarthy said. 

There are no plans to update the video to the current plan at this time, which would be an expensive job, he said.

Major changes in the proposal include:

I-89 intersection, Bow interchange:

This would involve a major reworking of an area that is often snarled at rush hour, most importantly by eliminating the “weaving” of cars entering and leaving the highways along the same relatively short stretches of road. It would also establish new local roads connecting South Street and Logging Hill Road and Route 3A.

Exit 12:

It would eliminate one of the exit ramps in each direction while adding roundabouts.

Exit 13:

It would widen the northbound off ramp, adding traffic signals.

Exit 14:

A major change is to eliminate the on-ramp onto northbound I-93. This will reduce the number stoplights on the short stretch of Loudon Road around the exit.

Exit 15:

The plan involves a major working of the exit, creating what is known as a cloverstack, similar to a cloverleaf. It would also extend Stickney Road, creating a new way to get onto the highway. It would not require moving the Unitil substation or any other building near the exit. Concord’s plans to extend Storrs Street to the north would also interact with the changes.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)