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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Start of Broad Street Parkway construction makes list of year’s top local stories

Editor’s note: Over the next several days, The Telegraph is running what it ranks as the 10 biggest local stories of 2012.

The median age of Nashua residents was calculated at 38.5 years in the 2010 U.S. census. That means most city residents are younger than the idea to build a new bridge over the Nashua River to link the city’s downtown neighborhoods with Route 3. ...

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Editor’s note: Over the next several days, The Telegraph is running what it ranks as the 10 biggest local stories of 2012.

The median age of Nashua residents was calculated at 38.5 years in the 2010 U.S. census. That means most city residents are younger than the idea to build a new bridge over the Nashua River to link the city’s downtown neighborhoods with Route 3.

For the past four or five decades, the plan has been just that – an idea. But in 2012, the Broad Street Parkway at last began to take shape.

Construction began in the spring on Pine and Palm streets.

The reconfiguration is an improvement needed for the southerly terminus of the parkway and prelude to construction of the new two-lane, limited access roadway.

Pine Street was converted to one-way southbound, paralleling the reworked Palm Street, which runs one-way northbound. Raised crosswalks were installed, and new traffic lights hung.

Progress also has been made on less tangible signs of the parkway – the overall design, for example, is being finalized, as is the design of a new bridge. City officials expect cars to begin traversing the 2-mile roadway by the end of 2014.

“Overall, the project is proceeding pretty well,” said project manager John Vancor, a consultant who works for the city.

The parkway is a joint city and state Transportation Department project built with a mix of city and federal dollars and is estimated to cost about $64.5 million.

In 2008, aldermen approved a $37.6 million bond, representing the city’s share of the construction cost.

One hiccup that hasn’t been settled, however, is how best to preserve the landmark 165-foot Millyard chimney.

The city awarded a contract for its preservation, only to have the proposal rejected by state transportation officials, who said the qualifications the city put out for perspective bidders was too restrictive.

City officials are drawing up a new set of qualifications, which will be submitted to the state for approval. City officials hope to put the project out to bid again early next year.

The parkway will cross the river via a new bridge near the Millyard, opening the former textile mill site to redevelopment.

The germ of the concept – a road connecting Broad Street with West Hollis Street, providing a third crossing of the Nashua River and a way for traffic to avoid Library Hill – has been discussed since at least the late 1950s.

It was first envisioned as a way to relieve downtown traffic congestion and high air pollution from car exhaust measured at the top of Library Hill, the confluence of Concord, Manchester and Main streets.

But the widening of Route 3 to six lanes from the Massachusetts line south diverted traffic and took care of the problem.

Since then, a new purpose also emerged: to open the Millyard area for development.

The 155,000 square feet of leasable space in the Millyard Technology Park itself now is 87 percent filled, and with the parkway, the remainder of the space should fill up quickly, city officials hope.

Along the circuitous path of roadway’s history, the term “parkway” became a misnomer. The road was pared down in 2003 from four lanes to two because of cost.

Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or pmeighan@nashua
telegraph.com. Follow Meighan on Twitter @ Telegraph_PatM.