July 6, 2006

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Concord Publisher's Note: The return of the DOT
By Dan Szczesny

The state Department of Transportation is back with some ideas about how to improve the I-93 — you know, the highway that slices through Concord, backs up traffic, is a general eyesore, makes it easier to pass the city by altogether and cuts off the Merrimack River from the downtown. Yeah, that one.

Well, the DOT has returned with a whole new “vision” for how to fix things. In fact, the new plan is called “2020, a Vision for Concord.” Officials from DOT stopped by the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce last week to unveil this new, long-term vision.

Forgive me for being skeptical, but does anyone remember the last time DOT dropped in to try to address the issue of transportation improvements? The year was 1992. DOT’s idea back then for alleviating the constant issue of traffic congestion was, drum roll, please, build a wider highway!

They would have been run out of town on a rail, that is if Concord had any rail to run them out on. And that, as you may have guessed, is my point.

Like most other state DOTs, and come to think of it, like our federal DOT as well, when they start throwing around phrases like “improved transportation modalities” and “traffic needs study” that usually means that bigger and wider roads are on tap. You’d think these guys were lobbyists for General Motors they way that the first thing that comes to mind when discussing transportation is asphalt.

But this time, say DOT officials, it’ll be different. The new improvement project promises context-sensitive solutions. That’s a fancy way of saying that DOT wants to work with Concord to make sure the improvements are not too damaging. Most specifically, DOT wants to work with the similarly named Concord 2020, a jointly managed initiative, to create a livable community for the state’s capital. We all know this because DOT Commissioner Carol Murray herself said so in the Concord 2020 project document back in 2001.

Concord 2020 is full of good ideas, including moving the highway away from the river and providing access to the water from downtown, bringing Loudon Road over the highway and limiting the highway to six lanes.

Murrey was the assistant commissioner then so I hope she remembers what she said and doesn’t bring another cars-are-better mentality to the table. The DOT is in the middle of a a traffic study and a design study now, which will be unveiled later this year to coincide with the new Concord Master Plan. DOT’s new context-sensitive solutions are designed to have engineers think beyond pavements and look at environmental and pedestrian-friendly alternatives, which would be a positive step.

But if DOT’s convoluted and far too general description of the plan on its Web site is any indication of what the city is to expect, citizens need to get involved now. Check it out at www.i93bowconcord.com. Then go to the link that connects you with the Planning Group and start e-mailing and writing letters. Traffic relief should not mean wider and longer roads.


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