September 21, 2006

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Nashua Publisher's Note: Stop studying, start paving
By Jeff Rapsis

Last week, Nashua’s aldermen voted to spend $150,000 on yet another study of the long-delayed Broad Street Parkway.

Why? Isn’t it obvious that the thing should be built?

The road, which would connect Exit 6 with Nashua’s millyard and include a bridge over the Nashua River, has been on the drawing board for nearly a half-century.

We’ve already spent $14 million on the project. If it’s built, the feds will cover 80 percent of the cost. Delaying it any further for studies shows the kind of lack of civic vision that helps retard Nashua’s potential for revival.

Let me explain: There are two basic reasons to invest in public infrastructure such as roads or bridges or sewers that we all have to pay for.

One is to take care of a current need: to solve a problem such as congested traffic, or to improve public services such as bringing city sewer pipes to a neighborhood that doesn’t have them.

The other reason is to drive future economic growth: to provide the transportation network and facilities needed to spur prosperity.

Where does the Broad Street Parkway fall in this? It’s not intended to solve current traffic problems. Rather, the Broad Street Parkway now is far more important as a tool for Nashua’s future economic development. By improving access to downtown and particularly the city’s still-neglected millyard, we will set the stage for all kinds of growth, opportunities, and economic development in the coming decades.

It won’t happen on its own. Future economic growth demands public investment in projects such as the Broad Street Parkway.

But this point seems lost on certain aldermen, who still seem to think the primary value of the parkway lies in solving the traffic problems of today.

“I don’t foresee any tumbleweeds rolling down Main Street if we delay it for two years,” said Alderman at Large James Tollner last week, supporting a motion to perform yet another study.

Tollner and others who support more study don’t get it. They don’t understand that the Gate City’s current prosperity is based on the vision of community leaders in times past to create a healthy local economy today.

They don’t seem to get that tomorrow’s prosperity will depend on the decisions we make today on issues such as passenger rail service or the Broad Street Parkway.

That’s the key—to make decisions. Not study them to death.