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November 08. 2012 2:22PM

New turnpike exit at Mass. border in Nashua considered

NASHUA - As the Nashua Technology Park continues to expand and create more traffic in the southern part of the city, the potential for a new, southbound off ramp at Exit 36 near the state border is moving forward.

While traffic in and out of the Nashua Technology Park flows adequately now, a representative from the John J. Flatley Co. told aldermen this week that as the park develops further, it is possible for traffic to bottleneck near Exit 1 of the F.E. Everett Turnpike.

Once that traffic reaches full capacity, Richard Cane of the Flatley Co. said an additional exit would be incredibly beneficial.

"That is the ultimate solution to the problem at Exit 1," said Cane. " .. It is still a long ways off, but ultimately, that will be the final relief to be able to fully accommodate this traffic."

He projects that Flatley Co. will eventually be required to make improvements to Spit Brook Road and possibly even widen the Exit 1 off-ramp to allow for a longer right-turn lane as the technology park grows. However, there is only so much that can be done to alleviate the traffic, said Cane, noting the need for a southbound off-ramp at Exit 36 in Tyngsborough, Mass.

Last fall, the Nashua Regional Planning Commission was awarded a $195,000 grant to study the development of a southbound off-ramp at Exit 36, which some planning officials believe will boost the regional economy and promote development in the city.

According to Tim Roache, assistant director of the Nashua Regional Planning Commission, the N.H. Department of Transportation gave his organization the green light to pursue the study in August.

"We are moving forward. It was a long road in getting started, but this is an important project," Roache said on Thursday.

In September, the data-collection phase of the study began, and the last traffic count was completed at the end of October, Roache said. The commission is in the process of analyzing the traffic data and establishing a steering committee to begin work at the start of 2013. He expects a series of public meetings to be held next year before a final report is issued, detailing whether the ramp would be feasible, if it would help alleviate traffic congestion on Spit Brook Road and the Daniel Webster Highway area, and its estimated cost, which was projected around $5 million a decade ago.

According to Roache, a southbound off-ramp at Exit 36 could provide advantages for New Hampshire and Massachusetts and has been included in his agency's Long Range Transportation Plan for several years.

The study, which could take about 18 months to complete, would set the groundwork for an environmental and engineering analysis. The Northern Middlesex Council of Governments, a regional planning agency in Massachusetts, is assisting with the study.

In the meantime, Cane said Flatley Co. will continue to conduct traffic studies each time it has new site plans to present to city officials, and continue speaking with abutters who may have concerns about the Nashua Technology Park's future. Currently, the company owns about 1.1 million square feet of office space in the city, and about 400-acres of property.

Rebranding the Nashua Technology Park as Gateway Hills, Cane said the development is, or will be filled with mixed-use property, including high-end apartments, retail space, two medical office buildings, a bank, technology offices, a future hotel pad and research and development office space.

Aspen Technology, Inc. recently expanded its Massachusetts software company into the technology park, opening a new research and development facility there this past summer.

"We are in serious negotiations with another (Massachusetts) high-tech company that is looking to move its operations up here," Cane told the aldermanic Planning and Economic Development Committee earlier this week.

Brian McCarthy, president of the Board of Aldermen, said he is pleased the Nashua Technology Park is nearly full and hoping to expand. "It is good for the city," said McCarthy.