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$32M bicycle and pedestrian crossing to move forward with or without toll hike

Union Leader Correspondent

December 11. 2017 12:53AM
The General Sullivan Bridge connecting Dover and Newington is used by bicyclists and pedestrians crossing Little Bay. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)
Toll hike hearings
Concord: Tuesday at 6 p.m. at NH Department of Transportation, Room 114, 7 Hazen Drive.

Manchester: Wednesday at 7 p.m., Manchester City Hall, Aldermanic Chambers, 1 City Hall Plaza.

Written comments should be sent to William E. Watson, 7 Hazen Drive, PO Box 483, Concord, NH 03302-0483, or by email to Comments must be received by 4 p.m. on Thursday.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that work on the General Sullivan Bridge will be sped up by a proposed toll increase. A spokesman for the state Department of Transportation said the work is already budgeted, and construction on the $32 million project will go forward even if the Executive Council does not approve the toll increase this month.

Officials from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation say a $32 million project to allow bicyclists and pedestrians to continue crossing the long-defunct General Sullivan Bridge over Little Bay will remain on track even if tolls do not increase.

The state is currently widening the adjoining Little Bay Bridge from two lanes to four lanes in each direction to alleviate rush-hour backups. But there are no plans for access to bicyclists and pedestrians on the stretch of the Spaulding Turnpike connecting Newington and Dover.

Approximately 500 bicyclists and pedestrians used the General Sullivan Bridge weekly in counts performed in July 2016, according to New Hampshire Department of Transportation Chief Project Manager Keith Cota.

State officials recognize the cost of the bridge project is high, but it has been argued the General Sullivan Bridge is a historic landmark. Cota said the structure is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

The bridge opened in 1935 and has been closed to vehicular traffic for three decades.

Construction on the General Sullivan Bridge is planned as the final part of a $260 million major capital project on the turnpike in Dover and Newington. It is slated for fiscal years 2019 to 2022, according to a slide presentation by Deputy Commissioner Christopher Waszczuk during a public hearing in Portsmouth last week.

Bill Cass, the assistant commissioner and chief engineer for the NH DOT, said the department is looking into the most cost-effective option of partially removing and replacing the bridge with a like superstructure.

The state has committed to rehabilitating the bridge under the National Environmental Policy Act, Cass said.

“We have reopened the NEPA process and we are engaging stakeholders in that dialogue,” Cass said.

A complete bridge removal and replacement has an estimated construction cost of $43.7 million. The partial removal and replacement plan will cost $31.7 million and is the cheapest of all alternatives, officials have said.

The U.S. Coast Guard advised the state years ago to remove the General Sullivan Bridge, saying it no longer functions in the manner originally intended and is an obstruction to navigation, according to the NH DOT website.

Jeffrey Stieb, a bridge management specialist at the U.S. Coast Guard, said Friday the Coast Guard will work with the state on the General Sullivan Bridge plan, so long as the needs of vessel navigation are met.

Politics Public Safety Transportation Dover Newington

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