Broad St. Parkway still has ways to go

NASHUA – Now that the money to design and construct the Broad Street Parkway has been approved, one thing is clear – there is still plenty of work to do before anything gets built.

The $37.6 million bond was approved Tuesday night by a 10-5 vote.

On Wednesday, Steve Dookran, the city’s chief engineer, began laying out the steps that now need to be taken to before construction begins on the project, which will result in a cross-city road and new bridge over the Nashua River.

Dookran said with all of the decisions that need to be made, including who will oversee and design the project, as well as environmental impacts, the construction of the project isn’t expected to start until the middle of 2011.

The project is expected to take more than two years to complete, he said.

Dookran said the first decision that the board of aldermen will have to make is whether the state or the city will manage the project. Dookran said the preferred method would be for the city to manage it.

“We prefer it because it gives the city full control as to how the project will be developed and built,” he said. “With local management, you can give specialized attention to the abutters’ needs.”

The committee on infrastructure met Wednesday night but delayed any discussion about what it would recommend.

On Tuesday night, Alderman-at-Large Ben Clemons said the city should manage it.

Ward 8 Alderman David McLaughlin, who opposed the project, disagrees.

“If we’re going to have it, I would rather have the state manage it,” he said. “I don’t believe the city at this moment, with all the pressures on the Division of Public Works, is able to handle it.”

Dookran said it is ultimately up to the aldermen to decide who will manage the project. Beyond management, the city must also complete the environmental re-evaluation of the project.

A firm will need to be hired to do that study, he said.

“The impact study done many years ago has been deemed as being too old,” he said. “We do have to do a re-evaluation. That has been estimated to take about 12 months to do.”

After that is completed, the final design of the project must be decided upon, which Dookran estimated would take a year to 15 months to complete. A firm would also need to be hired to conduct that study, he said.

Dookran said it would make sense to hire the same firm to conduct both the environmental and design studies, he said.

“You carry a lot of the same information from one phase to the other,” he said.

Concurrent with the design phase will be completing the purchase of properties along the right-of-way, he said. Several of those properties have already been purchased, he said.

The board will have to decide which of the two design options to move forward with. The city paid $30,000 for a study to find ways to lessen the cost of the project.

The first option would follow roughly the same path as the 2007 proposal, routing most of the traffic to West Hollis and Kinsley streets on the southern end. That option has a total cost of $57 million to $66.4 million, depending on interest rate estimates.

The second, less-expensive option offers a straightening of the Nashua River Bridge and a less drastic realignment of intersections at the southern end, routing more traffic along Central, Water and Factory streets toward Main Street.

The second option would have an overall cost of $52 million to $60.5 million.

Alderman-at-Large Brian McCarthy, a supporter of the project, said he would lean toward the second option.

“It sort of filters more into the mill yard,” he said.

President Steve Bolton, also a supporter of the project, also said he is glad the decision was finally made to move forward. He said it seems other cities like Manchester are more willing to take action on similar big projects.

“Here it seems like we discuss and ponder, while the decades drift on,” he said.

McLaughlin said he would continue to be involved with the decision making process, despite his opposition to the project.

“I will do what I must as an alderman in terms of the role of discussing what comes before the board,” he said. “But I am not supportive of this project.”

Ward 2 Alderman Dick LaRose was allowed to take part in the meeting via telephone conference, which is now permissible after a change was made to the state’s Right-to-Know Law earlier this year.

As expected, LaRose voted in favor of the project, giving it the necessary two-thirds support for approval.