New bridge not on plan

NASHUA – Acknowledging that it’s mostly a “feel-good” measure that gives few assurances, aldermen have asked the planning board to strike mention of a north Merrimack River bridge from the city’s downtown master plan.

That doesn’t mean a bridge won’t be built – it just won’t be in the plan, which is itself only a guide.

The resolution, put forth by Alderman-at-Large David Deane and co-sponsored by four of his colleagues, was a response to a proposal last winter to build a privately funded bridge linking Nashua and Hudson.

Starting at the Henri Burque Highway, that proposed roadway would have included a bridge that crossed the Merrimack River at contaminated land now owned by Beazer East Inc. Two local developers are under agreement to buy and develop the nearly 100-acre site.

Private investors would have paid for the bridge construction, and in turn would profit by receiving revenue from tolls, under the proposal.

According to the Nashua Regional Planning Commission, which advocated the project, an east-to-west connection between Exit 7 of the F.E. Everett Turnpike in Nashua and routes 3A and 102 in Hudson and Litchfield would have relieved the traffic bottleneck at the Taylor Falls and Veteran Memorial bridges.

But to make way for the bridge and expanded roadway, as many as eight homes in Nashua’s Ward 3 would have been taken, and dozens of other neighborhood residents would have lost parts of their properties.

After a public outcry, state lawmakers killed the concept of a private-public partnership to build that bridge. However, plans to eventually build a bridge following roughly the same path remained a part of the downtown master plan.

While the planning board had endorsed the resolution removing discussion of the bridge from the document, the aldermen’s unanimous vote means the resolution likely will go back to the planning board, which then will hold a public hearing before mention of the bridge is scrapped from the master plan, according to the aldermen’s attorney.

During public comments at the aldermen’s meeting Tuesday night, Jason Hale of 10 Gettysburg Drive said the house he and his fiancée bought last March would be one of the homes affected if the bridge is built.

Why would the city build a bridge that would take homes away from city taxpayers, Hale asked.

Kathy Godin of 2 Lamplighter Drive said the bridge would disrupt the lives of disabled homeowners and a person in her neighborhood who was newly widowed.

“Please, finally give us peace,” Godin asked of aldermen.

Alderman-at-Large Ben Clemons, one of the resolution’s cosponsors, cautioned that the board couldn’t give residents any assurances that state lawmakers in the future or a future board of aldermen might resurrect the bridge proposal.

Residents have been vigilant in speaking out against the bridge, and need to remain diligent, Clemons said.

Other alternatives have been eyed to improving the east-west traffic flow, including building a highway that swings through the south part of Hudson connecting Route 111 with the Sagamore Bridge, Alderman-at-Large Brian McCarthy said.

“The best way to get rid of an undesirable solution is to propose one that is better,” McCarthy said.