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May 14. 2012 10:44PM

Organizers outline plan for Merrimack outlet opening

MERRIMACK — With the grand opening of Merrimack Premium Outlets set to coincide with this year’s Rock’n Ribfest celebration, officials have developed a traffic plan to accommodate the thousands of people expected to visit next month.

Police are working with outlet representatives and the New Hampshire Traffic Management Center in Concord to prevent bottlenecks in the area of Exit 10 when the 100-store shopping center opens June 14.

“The good news is that there appears to be adequate capacity at the intersections to handle the expected traffic flow,” said Gordon Leedy, project manager with Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc.

Leedy and Police Chief Mark Doyle presented a preliminary traffic plan to town councilors last week, stressing that contingencies are in place in the event of congestion.

The grand opening of the outlets has been planned for June 14 to 17, while the Ribfest event will take place June 15 to 17.

Two police officers will be stationed at the entrance to the shopping center at Premium Outlets Boulevard, Industrial Drive and Spartan Way, where Fidelity Investments is located, Leedy said. Additional security will be located in the outlet parking lot to direct traffic to designated parking spots.

Electronic message boards will be used on the F.E. Everett Turnpike to direct motorists to the shopping mall.

“The idea is to pull people off the highway, keep people moving through the intersections and to get people onto the site as soon as possible,” Leedy said.

Initially, motorists traveling on the turnpike will be encouraged to use Exit 10 to reach the outlets. However, if traffic is congested on Industrial Drive, the message boards will direct motorists to use Exit 11 instead.

Leedy said the message boards will be linked to the Traffic Management Center and can be adjusted immediately if local police recommend.

Officers also will be stationed at the northbound and southbound exit ramps to further ensure that traffic is flowing, he said.

For the grand opening, outlet employees will park off-site at 40 Continental Blvd, which also will be used as overflow parking for shoppers if necessary.

A shuttle bus will be available.

Ribfest patrons will be asked to use the turnpike’s Exit 7 in an effort to keep Ribfest traffic east of the turnpike and outlet traffic to the west.

A shuttle bus will be available between the outlets and Ribfest.

“As far as manpower goes, we are in pretty good shape,” Doyle assured town officials, adding multiple agencies will be assisting.

Ribfest organizers are hoping for a crowd of about 40,000 people during the three-day family event, which will feature nationally renowned rib chefs and local restaurants.

No estimates are available for the crowd expected to flock to the outlets its opening weekend, but about 5 million visitors are anticipated annually.

Merrimack Premium Outlets, a high-end, $100 million shopping center, has been developed by Simon Property Group’s Premium Outlets division. Construction crews broke ground on the massive center in the fall of 2010.

Bloomingdale’s The Outlet Store and Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th will be the center’s largest stores.

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