Lozeau says yes, city can manage parkway

NASHUA – After some initial reservations, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau is backing a proposal for the city to manage the Broad Street Parkway.

The resolution that would give the city that authority is being tweaked in the board’s finance committee.

The so-called “municipal agreement” – actually, a contract with the state to transfer project management – is a key step as the city moves forward with plans to build the limited-access, cross-city roadway.

Proponents hope the 4.2-mile roadway will open the Millyard technology area to development and accommodate traffic as the city grows. The parkway would also create a second downtown crossing over the Nashua River.

Aldermen approved a $37.6 million bond for the project last month. Construction is expected to begin in 2011.

Lozeau told aldermen that despite some earlier worries, she has gained confidence that the city can manage the project and would do better at saving the city money with soliciting bids than the state would.

Alderman-at-Large Fred Teeboom called the parkway construction “the biggest job ever managed by the city.”

Teeboom said he was encouraged by the mayor’s willingness to accept the parkway management.

Controversial for decades, the parkway still has detractors waving red flags of caution.

Daniel Richardson, a former aldermen, told the board Tuesday that the city has unlimited liability for cost overruns, with no chance that the state or federal government would pick up the tab.

In the past, he and other opponents have said the parkway could become Nashua’s version of Boston’s Big Dig.

Richardson said proponents consistently “low-balled” the project’s cost. The city could end up paying more than what’s covered by the bond or federal money the city has already received.

“How that’s going to happen, I don’t know,” Richardson said.

Meanwhile, the city is weighing two options for the construction.

One option, at a total cost of $57 million to $66.4 million, depending on 2011 interest rate estimates, 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.

Option two costs $52 million to $60.5 million and 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.

Pared from a four-lane to a two-lane road in 2003, the concept of the parkway has been around for decades.

Ward 2 Alderman Richard LaRose once noted that talk of building a second downtown bridge had been discussed while he was in high school in the 1950s.