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January 20. 2014 10:17PM

Cost projection sought for new Nashua turnpike exit

NASHUA — Planning officials are working to determine what it would cost to create a new exit off the F.E. Everett Turnpike.

The Nashua Regional Planning Commission has released a Request for Qualifications to develop a planning and pre-engineering cost estimate for the proposed Exit 36 southbound off-ramp at the New Hampshire and Massachusetts border in Tyngsborough, Mass.

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau has been a strong supporter of the exit ramp, which she believes could pave the way for a multimodal transit center at the state border.

This week, the NRPC will host a mandatory pre-proposal briefing intended to provide guidance on the expectations of the project to potential consultants, according to the NRPC website and newsletter.

The briefing, being held in conjunction with the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments — a regional planning agency in Massachusetts — will take place at 10 a.m. on Wednesday at the NRPC office in Merrimack.

While the cost of building a new ramp on the F.E. Everett Turnpike has not yet been determined, original estimates in 2002 were about $5 million, but are now closer to $17 million. Previously, nearly $200,000 in grant money was awarded to the NRPC to conduct a study on its feasibility.

“I think the biggest issue is how to pay for a project that the majority of material falls in Massachusetts, and the majority of the benefit falls in New Hampshire,” Tim Roache, assistant director of the NRPC, said recently. “We need innovative financing.”

Previously, a data collection phase of the Exit 36 study began, and the last traffic count was completed. The NRPC has now formed a steering committee to begin additional work on the study, which will determine whether the ramp would be financially feasible, and whether it would help alleviate traffic congestion on Spit Brook Road and the Daniel Webster Highway area.

A southbound off-ramp at Exit 36 could provide advantages for New Hampshire and Massachusetts, Roache said earlier, adding it has been included in his agency’s Long Range Transportation Plan for several years.

A new exit could also help preserve capacity of the road network in Nashua, encourage transit opportunities in southern New Hampshire and promote economic development near Exit 1, he added.

Acknowledging that the cost could be significant, Lozeau said previously that there could be a financial benefit if the two states partner together on the transportation project, as access to other highway funds could become available and potentially mitigate some of the cost.

At a recent transportation meeting, Lozeau said she had hoped that the Exit 36 southbound off-ramp would have been moved up on the state’s 10-year plan.

“I look at this as a really remarkable opportunity to do something regionally across two states,” Lozeau said at the time.

The proposed exit is tentatively planned for 2019-2025 at a cost of about $17 million, according to documentation provided by the NRPC.khoughton@newstote.com


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