I-293: A plan to make it better through Manchester
The priciest set of alternatives — now in the hands of the state Department of Transportation — would cost an estimated $148 million. The study focuses on the stretch of highway just north of Exit 5 at Granite Street to about one mile north of the Exit 7 interchange at Front Street.
One of the most well-known to commuters is congestion at the highway's interchange at Amoskeag Circle off Exit 6. Another is the tendency of drivers to weave in and out of traffic in a sharply curved section near exits 6 and 7 in a battle to gain position between the closely spaced interchanges to get on or off the highway.
At the core of the alternative proposals presented is widening I-293 from two to three lanes in each direction from Exit 5 to the area of Exit 7. That part of the project could cost $8 million to $20 million.
Planners are also looking at ways the highway can be configured to help two economic development projects in an industrial area in Goffstown and the Hackett Hill section of Manchester.
Relocating Exit 7 could cost as much as $46 million."It's a question of trade-offs," said Bill Cass, director of project development for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation. "We wouldn't want to shortchange anything, but we are going to spend a lot of resources so we want it to have sufficient design life and meet transportation needs."
The affected parts of I-293 are part of the state turnpike system. Increases in turnpike tolls — even extending the tolls to the highway as it cuts through Manchester — may need to be considered, Cass said.
The project now enters another study phase, in which the alternatives are compared to each other and against the impact on surrounding city areas. Building along the Merrimack River involves environmental issues, while widening the road could also disturb regulated historic remnants of Manchester's past.
Jan. 7 public hearing
The question of how to improve transportation without adding to the burden of taxes and fees on the public has been controversial in New Hampshire over the past year. Those involved concede that much of the coming discussion is apt to be over what the state can afford compared to what the experts think is needed.