October 10. 2013 9:33PM

Nashua officials assess future projects

Union Leader Correspondent

NASHUA — Several state and city officials gathered on Thursday to discuss the status of the state’s 10-year plan for transportation improvements, highlighting transit projects that are just around the corner and some that are still several years from reality.

Nashua has several projects listed in the plan, including $15 million in operating assistance for the Nashua Transit System, $5 million in preventative maintenance for the NTS and nearly $2 million in capital planning for the NTS throughout the next decade.

One of the largest projects in Nashua is a proposed $18.4 million widening of Route 101A in two phases. The first phase is tentatively scheduled for preliminary engineering in 2017, with construction to begin three years later on a portion of the roadway from Sunapee Street to Blackstone Drive, and essentially from Milford to Nashua.

The second phase of the Route 101A improvements include widening from Somerset Parkway to Sunapee Street, and from Blackstone Drive to Celina Avenue. Construction for this portion of the work is tentatively set to begin in 2022.

“Route 101A was recognized as a regional need,” Tim Roache of the Nashua Regional Planning Commission said during Thursday’s public hearing at Nashua City Hall. “Some of these projects depend almost entirely on local match (funds).”

A large chunk of money is listed in the plan for the Boire Field Improvement Program at the Nashua Municipal Airport, which includes $19.5 million in taxiway upgrades, control tower adjustments, master planning and hazard beacon improvements scheduled to take place throughout the entire decade.

According to the 10-year plan, Nashua is set to purchase two new compressed natural gas buses in 2015 as part of the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality program at a cost of nearly $1 million. Also in 2015, reconstruction of East Hollis Street in Nashua is set to take place from Main Street to the Hudson town line at a price-tag of about $2 million.

The following year, Nashua is tentatively scheduled to receive an additional $2.6 million in CMAQ money to construct park-and-ride facilities at two city locations, according to the document.

Also in 2016 and 2017, a proposed expansion of the F.E. Everett Turnpike from Nashua to Bedford is scheduled to take place at a cost of about $4.1 million.

“This is a priority need that we have heard about throughout the region,” Bill Cass of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation said of the turnpike.

The preliminary 10-year plan for 2015-2024 includes various transit, airport, highway and bridge projects throughout the state, with federal funding for state transportation projects reaching up to $155 million per year. State aid, toll revenue and funding from the Federal Highway Administration are used to implement the projects included in the plan.

The state is limited with financial constraints for how and when the projects are implemented, Cass said.

“There are many more needs than there are priorities,” he said. “But we have tried to strike a balance among those.”

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said she had hoped that the newly proposed Exit 36 southbound off-ramp would have been moved up on the state’s 10-year plan. The exit, which would actually be built in Tyngsborough, Mass., has been a discussion by Nashua and Tyngsborough officials for more than two years.

“I look at this as a really remarkable opportunity to do something regionally across two states,” said Lozeau, maintaining it is the perfect opportunity to create a multimodal transportation center.

The proposed exit, according to documentation provided on Thursday, is tentatively planned for 2019-2025 at a cost of about $17 million.

In addition to the 10-year plan, there are other future transit projects prioritized up to 2040. Some of those long-term projects specifically affecting Nashua include: the Nashua to Concord Capitol Corridor passenger rail effort at an estimated cost of $100 million; a new bridge over the Merrimack River in Hudson, Litchfield, Merrimack and Nashua at a cost of about $185 million between 2033-2038; and reconstruction of Nashua’s Main Street at a cost of $2.2 million in 2024.khoughton@newstote.com