DERRY — Councilor Al Dimmock called the Exit 4A project “an albatross,” while state Sen. Jim Rausch defended the proposal as necessary for the region during a Tuesday night Council meeting.
The two elected officials debated the project during a presentation by the state Department of Transportation on the ongoing Interstate 93 widening project.
During the session, councilors were allowed to ask the officials about Exit 4A and discuss its possible impact on Derry.
Dimmock said he was adamantly opposed to the project, saying it would divert traffic from Derry’s already beleaguered downtown area. He said the project, which was first proposed decades ago, would no longer benefit Derry.
“You know, 35 years ago it might have been some help to Derry, but the way things are today Exit 4A is an albatross we don’t need,” Dimmock said.
The downtown has suffered economically in recent years and Derry is a virtual ghost town, Dimmock said. Adding Exit 4A would only exacerbate the situation, he said.
“You might as well take a shovel and bury Derry; right now Derry is almost a ghost town,” Dimmock added.
But Rausch, who was also in attendance, stepped to the microphone in disagreement.
Instead of further harming the downtown and Derry, the project would help by reducing traffic congestion around Exit 4 on I-93 during the evening commute, Rausch said. It would also prove beneficial for the town and region by providing better access for businesses, he said.
“As far as Exit 4A goes, I will say to Mr. Dimmock, ‘since when did Derry secede from the state of New Hampshire,”’ Rausch said. “This is a regional issue, Exit 4A is important to the state, to our community — its eco development, its jobs —that’s why we need another exit.”
Designed as an alternate to downtown Derry, Exit 4A would include construction of a one mile connecting road from the interchange off Interstate 93 to Ross’ North High Street and Folsom Road and Tsienetto Road. Exit 4A has remained in some semblance of limbo and construction could be years away, according to DOT officials.
During the DOT presentation on I-93, several DOT officials, including state DOT Commissioner Christopher Clement, gave an update on the overall project and the construction timetable for Derry.
Work is progressing on the $775 million project that will widen and reconstruct I-93 from Salem to Manchester, the officials said.
Plans call for beginning construction in the Derry area in 2016, with the overall project scheduled to conclude in 2020, officials said.