GOFFSTOWN — Selectmen and the Economic Development Committee are keeping a close eye on Interstate 293 in Manchester, as the state addresses a plan to improve Exits 6 and 7 – and possibly direct access to the town.
The improvements are “absolutely vital to Goffstown’s future economic development,” said Selectman Collis Adams.
The state Department of Transportation’s fourth public meeting took place June 11 at Manchester Community College. The I-293 Planning Study addresses the possible reconfiguration of Exit 6 and a new full-access Route 7 North interchange to Route 3A, and to Dunbarton Road and/or Goffstown Road in Manchester.
The study and public input has brought to light several safety issues of which many drivers entering or exiting Exit 6 are aware — confusion, congestion and weaving at the Amoskeag Circle; queuing from the northbound exit ramp back onto I-293, high-speed weaving at the southbound entrance and exit ramps; and limited space for acceleration at all entrance ramps. Another issue, especially for Goffstown residents and businesses, is the lack of connections at Exit 7 heading into town.
The DOT has presented several scenarios. Traffic at the interchanges could be controlled by strategically placed traffic lights, having traffic controlled by roundabouts, or offsetting north- and south-bound entrance and exit ramps. Planners are also considering relocating the Exit 7 interchange with access to Front Street and Dunbarton Road, or access to Front Street and Goffstown Back Road.
Adams said relocating Exit 7 and providing direct access to Goffstown would better serve the town.
“Of the alternative’s presented by DOT at the public hearing, Goffstown has expressed its strong support for either Alternative 10a or 10b. These options would provide the most direct and efficient connections between the turnpike and Goffstown Back Road,” Adams said. “Alternative 10b is preferable as it provides connections to both Goffstown Back Road and Dunbarton Road, allowing for distribution of traffic to and from the northerly and westerly areas of town.”
Selectmen said direct access from the highway to Goffstown has to be taken into consideration. Within the last 10 years, Goffstown approved a major industrial subdivision on Back Road near the Manchester line. Shortly after that project was approved, Manchester placed trucking restrictions on Back Road, Adams said.
“Prior to those restrictions, there were several parties interested in developing lots in the subdivision. Once the trucking restrictions were put in place, those parties pulled out and there has been no interest in the years since,” Adams said. “This demonstrates the importance of a direct connection to the turnpike so that Goffstown’s economic development is not held hostage by the actions of others.”
He said Goffstown will continue to pressure the DOT and solicit support from the town’s elected officials to assure that the selected alternative adequately addresses access to Goffstown’s developable lands north and west of the turnpike.
The Goffstown Board of Selectmen has identified economic development as their No. 1 goal for 2013, he said.
“At our meeting Monday night (June 17), we took the first important steps in developing plans to attract new industry and business to our town in order to help offset the burden placed on residential taxpayers. It will be a complex process that will focus on providing expanded infrastructure that is so critical to attracting new business. Included in that infrastructure expansion is improved access to major highways and a relocated Exit 7 is a perfect example and a good place to start,” Adams said.
The DOT will now begin preliminary engineering, acquiring formal environmental documentation and project design. This stage of the process can take several years.
The plan’s technical advisory committee includes representatives from the state DOT, the Federal Highway Administration, the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission, the city of Manchester, the chambers of commerce from Goffstown, Hooksett and Manchester, Manchester Community College, and State Sen. David Boutin, R-Manchester.
For more information and a detailed description of the proposed plan, go to 293planningstudy.com.