January 25, 2007

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Manchester Publisher's Note: Sticking with our bottleneck
By†Jody Reese

When Alderman Ed Osborne is right, heís right.

And thatís exactly what he was Monday night at an aldermanic committee meeting concerning the widening of Granite Street. The Committee, led by Alderman at Large Dan OíNeil, voted to cancel the rest of the widening, saying that the aldermen never agreed to project. Osborne said that was a mistake.

ďItís foolish to quit the project as this point,Ē he was quoted as saying at the meeting by the Manchester Daily Express.

Foolish indeed.

As it is now, the widening includes adding a southbound exit for the I-293, widening the Granite Bridge up to Commercial Street to seven lanes. The plan had called for the widening to continue up to Elm Street. The goal was to cut down on traffic congestion, making it easier for cars to get to the Verizon Wireless Arena or downtown.

Stopping the widening at Commercial Street, in fact, defeats the entire reason for the whole project ó making it easier to get into the city. Granite was to be a gateway into the city. Without the added widening, it will be more like a side door unable to handle the demands of rush hour or event nights at the Verizon or baseball stadium.

OíNeilís problem with the project is that he feels city government never committed to widen Granite all the way up to Elm Street. I can understand not wanting to feel pressured into spending $6 million, but in this case the projectís scope and cost have been discussed, publicly examined and explained. The goal of the project has never changed: reduce the traffic bottleneck of Granite Street.

Regardless of pass commitments or lack thereof, OíNeil and the aldermen must admit that Granite Street needs to be widened. Manchester must continue to improve its roads for future growth.

Predictably, we are working to make that growth as unpleasant as possible for residents and businesses. Can you imagine if government were a company such as Apple, Inc.? CEO Steve Jobs meets surging demand for his iPod with an announcement that he will not be building more iPods because it will be an added cost. Instead, heíll just let those consumers buy competing MP3 players, losing all that business. Itís impossible to prosper without planning and investment.

I know itís easy to say no to more spending, but we must look at the consequences. Will deciding to stop the widening of Granite Street help turn the Millyard into a better place to do business? Will it make it easier to sell the condos along the river? Will it make it easier to develop the JacPac property? What about the neighborhood across from the Verizon? If the answer to these questions is no, then perhaps itís wise to make the $6 million investment.

In addition to looking at the bottom line today, city leaders need to look at our needs five or 10 years from now.