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August 20. 2014 10:20PM

Derry to NH: Take Exit 4A

DERRY — In a historic move for the town, councilors agreed Tuesday night to let the state manage the construction and funding of Exit 4A.

Councilors voted 6-0 to authorize the New Hampshire Department of Transportation to manage the project and limit the town’s financial responsibility to $5 million.

Derry has already spent $1.75 million on Exit 4A, according to officials.

The move comes after a recent presentation by council Chairman Mark Osborne on the history of Exit 4A, which dates back at least three decades. Osborne, an attorney, chose to delve into the project after a presentation last month by the state DOT on the widening of Interstate 93 and Exit 4A.

Osborne found that, although Derry never signed a contract or settlement agreement, the town participated in the project and would likely be held legally responsible by the state.

Osborne paused as he said, “I have not heard a single ... coherent ... explanation as to how we would not be legally bound to this project after 30 years of being not a silent partner, but an active one.”

The town actively participated with the town of Londonderry, Boston North, a developer that owned land where the project would be built, and the state DOT.

“If we were to be sued, a judge would not look for a magical piece of paper because we all know there is no smoking gun here,” Osborne said. “He or she would look at the course of conduct that Derry has engaged in for the last 30 years with Boston North, the town of Londonderry and the Department of Transportation.”

Osborne said he was aware of the concerns of the town and residents about the project. Some councilors and residents have said that the project could increase substantially in cost, will not help relieve traffic congestion in downtown Derry and may never be built.

But Osborne added, “I would remind you all Exit 4A was not conceived with this council but with the legal risks that we have, this council has no option but to give birth to it, and we have to do it tonight; we are not going to kick the can down the road.”

Before casting their votes, councilors agreed that granting the state authorization to take over the project was the most prudent decision for the town.

“I like that the town won’t be on the hook for additional money,” Councilor Joshua Bourdon said. “It appears that over 30-plus years we’ve shown that we are in, and I think it’s time to lead and move forward.”

hmcgee@newstote.com


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