Minimizing I-93 Expansion & the Deck Park/River Bridge Initiative
I-93 Highway Expansion
NHDOT is moving forward with 20+ year old plans to widen I-93 from 4 to 8 lanes (6 at points) between Bow through Exit 15, due to federal infrastructure funds being released. I-93 runs right through the middle of our city, exacerbating a socio-economic and racial divide, damaging the urban landscape and natural environment, dividing resources, limiting sustainable development, significantly contributing to fossil fuel emissions, and degrading our greatest public resource, the Merrimack river.
According to the data, research and expert opinion, highway expansion does not reduce congestion - it encourages more - this is called “Induced Demand”. In his two part article on the I-93 expansion in the Concord Monitor, local reporter David Brooks brilliantly explains why highway expansion is wrong for Concord - we’ve expanded on his list here. There’s a huge amount of fuel here to warrant a full fledged “push back on highway expansion” movement. Cities across America are pushing back on expansion and even dismantling their existing highway systems to right the wrongs of 1960s highway development. Check out this recent article on why Denver and L.A. are backing away from highway expansions.
Cautious about the viability of a full-fledged push back on the State without an enormous groundswell of support, Concord Greenspace has focused advocacy efforts on scaling back the highway widening while still meeting NHDOT’s stated safety mitigation objectives. We've put significant effort into advocating for a plan that BENEFITS Concord including a deck park & pedestrian bridge (or comparable improvement opportunity) to unify the city which has been part of the city’s master plan for decades. We understand that there are safety concerns and red-list bridges that need to be mitigated however resolving those issues need not go hand-in-hand with putting an 8 lane highway through our city.
Our team of experts in engineering and planning helped craft this list of requests for DOT:
MINIMIZE the widening - reduce the number of planned highway lanes from 8 to 6 max.
Design the highway with a designated speed at 55 mph not 70 mph.
Design the expansion around the current traffic needs - not outdated data.
Improve safety design at interchanges for bikes/pedestrians.
Reduce the barrier effect of the railroad.
Provide more accommodation and safety considerations for bicyclists and pedestrians especially around multi-lane exits.
Provide barrier protected bike lanes on major commuting routes.
Provide plans clearly demonstrating "transitions" that tell drivers they are leaving the highway and entering a low speed city or neighborhood environment.
Include high quality streetscaping, landscaping and incorporate local art & culture at all interchanges.
Engage in a robust public process including workshops & charrettes.
At the Transportation Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC) meeting on 9/29/22 the committee reached a consensus to recommend to City Council "MINIMIZING" highway widening while still fixing the bridges, interchanges and weaving. There was also consensus around the need for more traffic data. There was strong public support for a deck park and pedestrian river bridge (or comparable improvement opportunity) at the 9/15/22 and 9/29/22 TPAC I-93 meetings and the 10/11/22 City Council meeting. At the 10/11/22 City Council meeting, the Mayor asked NHDOT if they would work with a deck park firm to ensure that DOT's plan not preclude this improvement opportunity and they agreed. At the 11/14/22 City Council meeting, a motion passed to pursue a bid for a feasibility study for a deck park and pedestrian river bridge. On 12/12/22, City Council will review I-93 community input, requests for DOT, and next steps.
Join our efforts to advocate for a deck park and pedestrian bridge to unify Concord and for minimization of highway widening. A deck park & pedestrian river bridge is a huge economic opportunity for Concord and will effectively unite our city and connect us to the Merrimack River.
Write your City Councilors AND the City Clerk!
Join our I-93 team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Join us at the December 12th City Council Meeting 7-9pm City Chambers
Learn about the deck park & pedestrian river bridge vision?
Spread the word far and wide!
Join the discussion on Facebook.
Recent updates here.
Project history & plans here.
Check out the original deck park plan vision in Concord's Opportunity Master Plan (2005) here.
Watch NHDOT's latest expansion proposal presentation here.
Read Claudia Damon's public letter to City Council here.
Read the recent NYTimes article on highway expansion here.
Read David Brooks 2-part article on I-93 Expansion in Concord here
Join us on Facebook!
WHAT IS A DECK PARK?
A deck park (aka highway cap/platform park) is a community park built over a section of highway to connect one side of the highway to the other. The intention is to minimize the disruption highways cause through a city. In this photo you see a deck park constructed over the highway to connect the city to its waterfront. A deck park in Concord would connect, unify, and transform our city. Here's how it might work...
A VISION FOR CONCORD
Imagine a large, community park, surrounded by shops and restaurants stretching down from Storrs Street (Market Basket/Burlington Coat Factory area) OVER the rail and highway to the river. At the river's edge the park transforms into a tree-lined waterfront promenade that looks out over the Merrimack River and cornfields on the other side. This architecturally beautiful promenade is supported by a tall retaining wall on the river's west bank and allows you to enjoy expansive river views while strolling (or rolling) up and down with your loved ones. But wait, it doesn't end there!...
(Photo of Concord Deck Park concept from Concord's Opportunity Corridor Master Plan 2005.)
SYMBOLIC PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE ACROSS RIVER
From the promenade, a gorgeous, iconic bike/pedestrian bridge reaches across to the east side of the river sloping gently down to the Merrimack River Greenway Trail "boardwalk". This bridge, a symbol of unifying our city, can be seen from the highway and attracts visitors to stop and spend time (and money) in Concord.
Once on the east side of the Merrimack, you delight in dipping your toes in the river before you walk south on the MGRT boardwalk to Terrill park to rent & launch a kayak or stand-up paddle board. Walk north on the MGRT boardwalk to connect with the DOTs proposed multi-use path on Loudon Road. Post your mail at USPS and walk home to the Heights on TPAC's innovative, future Gully Hill pedestrian/bike path system.
(Photo shows an example of a tall, riverside retaining wall holding up a city promenade with bike/ped bridge.)
HOW WILL THIS WORK?
The State's DOT highway expansion and the City's deck park would be two separate projects. But the highway expansion project must lay the groundwork for, and not preclude, the deck park project. That is why it is critical for the City to provide the deck park designs and blueprints to the State A.S.A.P. so DOT can incorporate the deck park into highway expansion work. Getting a feasibility study done now by a firm specializing in deck parks is key!
Sign the request for a Deck Park and feasibility study here!
WHY NOT JUST A BRIDGE?
A bridge over the highway would need to span a far greater distance to go up and over the railway, highway, and the river. The bridge would have to lift 40+ feet in the air hovering over the roaring highway. Imagine how that would feel with the wind and roar underfoot - and smells all around? The mandatory, safety, chain link fences reaching high up on both sides to prevent jumps would be an eyesore. How do you make this accessible for someone in a wheelchair? Would it be an improvement worth the financial cost? A community deck park caps over the rail and highway creates a sense of safety because you are standing in a park - instead of over a highway. A deck park creates a destination to meet and gather to be utilized and celebrated by all.