BEDFORD — It's been a long and winding road for the state's Department of Transportation's 10-year improvement plan but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
After several delays and years of waiting for Route 101 improvements, Bedford residents and commuters may soon benefit from an expansion of the highway from the intersection of Route 114 to Wallace Road.
On March 25, an amended version of HB 2014, the transportation improvement plan, was approved by the House. The bill was introduced in the Senate on March 27 and referred to the Transportation Committee. The Senate is expected to vote during first week in May.
Bedford state Rep. John Graham, a member of the Public Works and Highway Committee, said the bill has a good chance of gaining Senate approval. Once approved by the Senate, the bill will go before Gov. Maggie Hassan and the Executive Council for final approval.
The bill would provide about $12 million for the widening of up to five lanes for approximately two miles of Route 101 from Route 114 to Wallace Road. Preliminary engineering and right of way is expected to begin in 2015, with construction commencing in fall 2016, said Victoria Chase, DOT project manager.
"We've only just begun the design process. We'll hold a public information hearing in mid-May, complete the design and evaluate any need for eminent domain properties," said Chase. "There will be a much more structured public hearing in the summer with the governor's council and local representatives."
Graham said the amended bill includes $8,090,000 in federal funds for the widening of Route 101 to account for mitigation and increased values in obtaining any right-of-way properties.
The plan also includes work on red-listed bridges and highway sections in need of repair — $2.3 million to replace the bridge/culvert over Pulpit Brook, and Twin Brook Lane safety improvement in 2019; $1.8 million for bridge/culvert replacement at Route 114 in 2018; $300,000 for the bridge rehabilitation over Riddle Brook at Wallace Road in 2017; $480,000 for bridge replacement over McQuade Brook at Cider Mill Road; $725,000 for bridge replacement over McQuade Brook at Catesby Lane in 2020; and $1 million for bridge replacement over Baboosic Brook at Beals Road.
"The design we'll be carrying forward will follow the 2002 corridor study conducted by the town of Bedford," said Chase. "Construction will cost about $12 million but that's a preliminary amount."
Town Council Vice Chairman Bill Jean, Town Manager Steve Daly and Town Engineer Jeff Foote and some department heads met with the DOT on April 2 to discuss the status of the project.
"The DOT has completed the field survey work and have developed a conceptual design, which was reviewed at the meeting. They still need to complete some historic property survey work as well as analysis of the culverts under Route 101 at the end of Bedford Center Road; that work was underway last week," said Jean.
The DOT is in the process of determining the easement and/or taking requirements and will communicate to the land owners directly.
"The town has identified two proposed restricted business access points that may be less than desirable for the business owners and will approach the business owners and try to negotiate a beneficial solution to provide alternative full access. If this can be negotiated and agreed to by property owners the work could be incorporated into the project and constructed as part of the project with no cost to the business owners," he said.
Jean said he is encouraged that the DOT has kept Bedford in the loop on its progress.
"Speaking personally, I am pleased with the collaborative and inclusive roll the town is having in the project development. I anticipate the public will have a voice at the public meeting," he said.
The 2002 Bedford Route 101 Corridor Study identified Route 101 as one of the worst highways in New Hampshire. In Bedford, Route 101 is a barrier that cuts the town in half, separating neighborhoods and dividing the town center from the community. Traffic was expected, at the time the study was concluded, to increase 35 to 50 percent in 20 years. In Bedford, the study recommended expanding Route 101 up to five lanes with a dividing median, shoulders, sidewalks and landscaping to promote safety for drivers and pedestrians.
The study also identified Route 101's impact on Amherst, Milford and Wilton. The recommended improvements were estimated to cost about $43 million to $48 million over 10 years, with about $52 million of work in Amherst through Wilton.
The study and other Route 101 improvement information is available at www.bedfordnh.org/pages/BedfordNH_Manager.
Also affecting Bedford are projects in the 10-year transportation plan along the F.E. Everett turnpike, including the removal of tolls on exits 11 and 12 in Merrimack, at $1.6 million each. Both projects are contingent upon the relocation of the Bedford main line toll south of its present location on the Everett Turnpike, and Merrimack's acceptance of Continental Boulevard as a municipal highway.
Recently, the DOT began a safety improvement project in Bedford and Manchester involving the installation of median barriers to prevent vehicle crossovers along a six-mile section of Route 101, Interstate 293 and Interstate 93.
The project includes removing 4,000 linear feet of existing guardrail and installing 22,000 linear feet of new guardrail from Plummer Hill Road in Bedford on Route 114 to the I-293/I-93 split. The I-293 guardrail installation will occur in various areas where there is potential for vehicle crossover-type accidents, and includes one section on I-93, just north of Island Pond Road in Manchester. In addition, 1,100 linear feet of 54-inch high concrete barrier will be installed at the bridge overpasses to protect the bridge piers.
Continental Paving Inc. of Londonderry is the general contractor for the $1.9 million project, which is scheduled to be completed by Aug. 22. Daytime work requiring lane closures will be at off-peak hours and will not affect traffic.