September 21, 2006

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Concord Publisher's Note: Road to the future
By Dan Szczesny

Big plans are in the works for Route 3 north of Concord to Penacook.

The heavily used road is due for a makeover, and we’re not talking about just a fresh coat of pavement.

No—we’re talking about the potential for a totally rebuilt road, one that functions as a useful corridor not just for cars but for pedestrians, people on bicycles, and more.

We’re talking about a road that really lives up to its potential to enhance a community’s quality of life in many ways.

Does this sound odd? If you’ve never lived anywhere else than the Granite State, you probably don’t know what a road can be. Outside the immediate center of cities such as Concord and Manchester, roads in New Hampshire are usually terrible.

When I say “what a road can be,” I’m not talking about the pavement, which is often bad enough around here thanks to frost heaves and lack of maintenance.

I’m talking about how roads are laid out, a question that has been overlooked in much of New Hampshire, especially in outlying towns.

Too often, communities have been content to just run a strip of pavement between one place and another, and that’s that. You’ve got a road!

Never mind sidewalks or bike paths. Often, there’s not even an adequate shoulder. Like as not, the roadway’s edge is a scattered mass of crumbling asphalt that’s no fun to walk on or ride a bike.

As a result, most roads are dreary noplaces that people aren’t encouraged to use in any other way than inside a car with a good suspension system.

This is understandable, given our mad rush in the past few generations to create a culture totally dependent on the automobile. If no one walks anywhere, what’s the value of sidewalks or other roadside improvements?

Unfortunately, it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy in many areas, and that includes southern New Hampshire. Because no one walks anywhere, why should public officials spend money to accommodate people on foot?

Thankfully, times are changing. People are beginning to realize that roads, like the rest of our communities, should not be built for cars, but for people. And that means creating sidewalks and bike paths, and also investing in a “streetscape” that encourages people to get out and use the facilities; grass, landscaping, lights, etc.

These things don’t happen by accident. They take careful planning, money and regular maintenance.

In that light, it’s very encouraging to see the effort to upgrade Route 3 north of Concord to Penacook.

At a session earlier this month, engineers from Fay, Spofford & Thorndike held a meeting with residents to discuss plans and get suggestions on the section of the roadway that stretches from Sewall Falls Road north to Penacook.

Among the highlights: sidewalks on both sides, bicycle lanes, and steps to “calm” traffic at intersections and make it easier for people to cross streets without feeling like they’re playing dodgeball with a two-ton vehicle bearing down on them.

The next hearing will cover the southern portion of the road, from the central fire station up to Sewalls Falls Road. It’s Thursday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m. at Beaver Meadow Elementary School. Attend, see what the plans are, and make your suggestions. I hope to see you there!.


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