Bridge between schools may be solution

People have many ideas on how to improve the busing situation between the city’s two high schools, but there may be few immediate solutions besides tweaking the existing system.

The one option that most people mention is the one that’s the most costly – building a bridge across the Nashua River to link the two schools.

Yet that might be exactly what will happen.

The school district and the Nashua High School Building Committee have set aside about $30,000 to conduct a feasibility study of building a bridge over the river. That study should begin to answer questions such as where the bridge could go, how big it would need to be, and what it would be used for – pedestrians or buses or both, according to Mark Conrad, the school district’s business administrator.

At one point, plans for a bridge were part of the $143 million high school construction budget, but as costs began to rise early in the project, the bridge was eliminated. Now that the project is nearly complete and it appears there will be savings “in a magnitude of millions,” talk of building a bridge has begun again, Conrad said.

“We’ve always thought connecting the schools more directly than the highway was something we should look at,” Conrad said.

Geographically the schools are about a mile apart. By vehicle, the distance is five times as long.

If a bridge is on the horizon, it won’t be soon, Conrad cautioned. In the meantime, the school district will do its best to decrease the traveling time for students.

“While the bridge is a long-term solution, it’s not a short-term solution,” Conrad said. “Just in the normal run of construction, it takes a couple years to build a major structure.”

The planning period alone for such a bridge could be two years, he said.

Conrad compared the current busing situation to the opening of the north high school two years ago and all of the congestion that occurred on Broad Street. After a week or two, the time it took to get students out of the north school got much better.

Similarly, Conrad expects improvement with the current dilemma in busing students from one school to the other.

Starting Monday, there will be more buses at both high schools to transport all students. Students will become more efficient in getting to those buses on time, and in turn the buses will leave the schools sooner and deliver the students earlier, he said.

“What you can’t eliminate is the time it takes to drive between one school and the next,” Conrad said. “That will just be part of the ongoing process of getting kids to their classes.”