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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Green light for Broad St. Parkway

NASHUA – The Broad Street Parkway has cleared another hurdle, with the federal highway administration issuing a revised “Record of Decision” that allows the project to proceed.

The question now is, when the roadway opens in 2014, as anticipated, what will it be called?

Ward 3 Alderman Diane Sheehan has sponsored legislation that would change the name to the Millyard Technology Parkway. The road will flow through the Millyard area after it swings south from Broad Street near Exit 6 and crosses the Nashua River, and before it intersects Pine Street.

Originally, the parkway was proposed to alleviate traffic and pollution downtown. However, the widening of the Everett Turnpike removed the urgency of that problem, and the parkway became viewed mainly as a way to open up the Millyard to development.

Small “incubator” businesses and social service offices are located there, but city and business officials say development of the isolated former textile mill area has been hampered by lack of accessibility.

While Sheehan’s proposal would change the name to reflect a new purpose for the road, it ironically keeps the word “parkway.” The project arguably stopped being a parkway seven years ago when plans were scaled back from four lanes to two.

The road now is actually a limited-access road that connects the F.E. Everett Turnpike with downtown, providing access to the Millyard in the process.

A Record of Decision was issued in 1997, when the proposed parkway was still four lanes. Since then, the roadway became narrower and its route slightly modified, especially in its eastern section where it crosses the Nashua River and connects to Pine Street.

Because of the changes, the original Record of Decision can’t be applied to the project.

In issuing a new record of decision, the federal highway administration noted the new configuration meets the original objects with less of an impact on the community and the environment.

The report can be found on the city’s website,

Meanwhile, the Nashua Regional Planning Commission and consultants Vanasse, Hangen, Brustlin, of Bedford, are wrapping up an environmental impact study of the new route.

Then, a final design will have to be completed, said John Vancor, a former city engineer who is the city’s project manager for the parkway.

The project is expected to cost about $68 million and is being paid for in part by federal money and in part by a $37.6 million bond the aldermen approved in 2008. So far, the city has spent $14 million in federal money. More property will also have to be acquired; some lots already have been taken through eminent domain, including property that lay in the path of the old route but that no longer lie in the new path.

Construction would likely begin next spring with the removal of the former Boiler House in the Millyard, Vancor said.

A grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will finance work at the city-owned Boiler House, a contaminated brick building that was once the engine for the former site of a textile mill.

Officials hope to save the adjacent chimney, a landmark that bears the word “Millyard” and lies in the middle of an area the city hopes the parkway will help open to redevelopment.

Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or