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Author Topic: LT - Plenty of Unknowns with Opening of Airport Access Road  (Read 2982 times)
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GDouglas
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« on: November 04, 2011, 12:22:46 PM »

From the Londonderry Times www.NutPub.net

Plenty of Unknowns with Opening of Airport Access Road
Kathleen D. Bailey
Londonderry Times
11/3/2011


As the Airport Access Road, officially known as Raymond Wieczorek Drive, opens next week, Londonderry town officials and staff are poised for changes.

A ribbon-cutting for the new road will be held Nov. 10 at 10 a.m., with the road open for traffic Nov. 11. The road connects Merrimack, Bedford and Londonderry with the Manchester Boston Regional Airport, with three exits to Londonderry. 

The missing piece of the puzzle is Londonderry's Pettengill Road. Upgrading Pettengill Road and connecting it to the access road will provide easier access to 800 acres and a potential 3.6 million square feet of commercial and industrial development. Improving the road from a Class VI to Class V status is on the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) as a Priority II for Fiscal Year 2013. The project is listed as $12,348,000 for design plans and construction.

Town Council

Town Council Chairman Sean O'Keefe, speaking as a private citizen, said he's taking a wait-and-see attitude, and what he's waiting on is the economy. "The access road could be a valued addition to the community, with a potential of opening up the area for more business," O'Keefe said. 

The problem, he said, is "finding companies to come in." With a shaky economy, O'Keefe said he doesn't see the access road and the land around it as "a lifesaver at this point. Maybe down the road?"

O'Keefe characterizes himself as a realist. "I am not a believer," he said, "in 'if you build it, they will come." 

But if companies do come in, O'Keefe added, "it will be a great thing for the community." He is hoping, he said, that any firm doing business in the area will want to help with the cost of the road.

Speaking for the Council, O'Keefe said, "It's a lot of land, a lot of potential - but there's not a lot of money around."

Community Development

Developing the area has been part of the planning conversation since a design charrette in 2003, Community Development Director Andre Garron said, and was part of the conversation even before: they been working on the idea for 11 years, he said. 

"It's hard to predict, but what we estimate will happen is that the new road will provide access to the airport, but also open up the area to the south of the airport, which includes Pettengill Road," he said.

The intersection for Pettengill and the access road is already designed and built, ready for Pettengill to connect, he said.

In the 2003 charrette, Garron said, it was estimated that the land south of the airport, if fully built out, could provide 4,000 to 6,000 jobs over a 20-year period. And at full build-out, he said, the estimate in 2003 was a tax revenue of $5 to $8 million.

"If it can be realized, it will not just be a local project but have regional impact," Garron said.

Fire

The Londonderry Fire Department is already affected by the airport, Fire Chief Kevin MacCaffrie said. The department is the main EMS (emergency medical services) provider for the airport and responds to an average of 210 calls a year, he said, noting that while most of the calls are medical in nature, about 10 percent are fire-related.

The new road will come through Merrimack, across the river and through Londonderry, MacCaffrie said, and will attract travel that would normally come through Manchester.

The town has added four firefighters to its working budget for 2013, and that will help the department manage its current call volume, MacCaffrie said.

While MacCaffrie doesn't have a call estimate for a road that hasn't opened yet, he has run some numbers based on Interstate 93, which has 14 miles of highway in Londonderry. "On 93, we average 350 calls a year," he said. Based on traffic volume, he estimated that the access road would add about a quarter of those calls, or an additional 100-150 calls a year.

MacCaffrie said he would be getting together with fire chiefs from Merrimack, Bedford and Manchester to discuss how they will work out responsibilities.

Police

Londonderry Police Chief William Hart said there will be an impact from the access road, but he doesn't want to speculate too much at this point.

Hart said, "I do think as people get to know the new configuration, the new road, it will increase traffic problems." Some of those may simply involve people going the wrong way, while other issues may involve enforcement, he said.

Hart added that he and his department will be involved in an educational campaign with the airport on dealing with the new intersections.

Hart said the road will involve more enforcement and investigation activity, although at this point, he said, "It's hard to have any kind of a guess."

He is planning for an "uptick" in activity, Hart said, adding, "We'll see how much is needed."
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Glenn Douglas
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