I93 Expansion is Coming - A Deck Park for Concord - Now is the Time!

Updated: Sep 12

Take a moment to imagine what our city will feel like when NHDOT doubles the size of I-93 through Concord. The current experience of crossing under the highway at Exit 14 has been described by Concord residents as “highly unsafe”, “exposing”, “vulnerable” and “humiliating”. What will this experience be like when the underpass is twice the size with twice the traffic? What will neighborhoods located near the highway feel like with twice the noise and twice the pollution?


I-93 runs right through the middle of our city, exacerbating a socio-economic and racial divide, damaging the urban landscape, dividing resources, limiting sustainable development, and degrading our greatest public resource, the Merrimack river. Doubling the size of the highway - doubles the divide. What’s the payoff? Less congestion on Friday and Sundays for travelers passing through? According to the research, highway expansion does not reduce congestion, it encourages more - check out “Induced Demand”. In his two-part article on the I-93 expansion in the Concord Monitor, David Brooks brilliantly explains why highway expansion is wrong for Concord - we’ve expanded on this list here.


If there is no stopping NHDOT from expanding the highway then we request they lay the groundwork for our city's 20+ year old vision of a deck park and river bridge for Concord (among other things!) A deck park and bridge will serve to unify Concord and connect downtown to the Merrimack River. This is a huge economic opportunity for Concord! If we don't act now the opportunity will be lost forever.

WHAT IS A DECK PARK?

A deck park (aka highway cap/lid/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 disruptions that 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… (Photo of example deck park)


THE VISION FOR A DECK PARK & UNITY BRIDGE

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.)


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 GreenwayTrail. 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.

(Photo shows an example of a tall, riverside retaining wall holding up a city promenade with bike/ped bridge.)


Once on the east side of the Merrimack, you delight in dipping your toes in the river before you walk south to Terrill park to rent & launch a kayak or stand-up paddle board. Walk north 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!


WHY NOT A BRIDGE OVER THE HIGHWAY & RIVER?

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.


WHAT ELSE CAN WE DO?

Our team of experts in engineering and planning helped craft this list of requests for DOT:

  1. Reduce the number of planned highway lanes from 8 to 6 max.

  2. Design the highway with a designated speed at 55 mph not 70 mph.

  3. Design the expansion around the current traffic needs - not outdated data.

  4. Improve safety design at interchanges for bikes/pedestrians.

  5. Reduce the barrier effect of the railroad.

  6. Provide more accommodation and safety considerations for bicyclists and pedestrians especially around multi-lane exits.

  7. Provide barrier protected bike lanes on major commuting routes.

  8. Provide plans clearly demonstrating "transitions" that tell drivers they are leaving the highway and entering a low speed city or neighborhood environment.

  9. Include high quality streetscaping and landscaping at all interchanges.

  10. Engage in a robust public process including workshops & charrettes - MUCH has changed in Concord since 2019!​​​

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

It is our understanding that on Sept 15th, the Transportation Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC) (now chaired by the Mayor) meets to discuss the I-93 plan. On Sept 29th, TPAC meets to finalize recommendations to City Council. On Oct 11th City Council meets with DOT to discuss the expansion plan and offer up TPACs recommendations. All three meetings are public.


This leaves us with just a short amount of time to rally Concord around a plan. Similar highway expansion proposals have devastated cities across America who were too fragmented or disorganized in their efforts to advocate for their city. Unifying is our best shot at advocating for a plan to connect our city! We need strong community input NOW from individuals like YOU!


URGENT NEXT STEPS:

Show up and be heard at the following three city meetings:

  • Sign the Community Request & provide your feedback here.

  • I-93 TPAC meeting Sept 15th RSVP here.

  • I-93 TPAC meeting Sept 29th RSVP here.

  • City Council on October 11th RSVP here.

  • Spread the word far and wide & ask folks to attend the meetings - many residents don’t know the highway expansion plan even exists, much less that it is currently moving forward.

  • Call and write your City Councilors! Use this blog post as a template for your letter to City Council - example of Claudia Damon’s public letter to City Council here.

We can do this Concord!


Gratefully,

The Concord Greenspace Coalition


PS. THE CITY REQUESTS YOUR FEEDBACK!

The City would like us all to answer the following questions - you can do so in person at the above meetings or on our website here. We will compile your responses and submit them to the City Clerk as a public document:

  • What does “access”or “connection” to the river mean to you? Is it dipping your toes in the river? Is it launching a boat from a dock? Is it an unobstructed view from a community park? (PS. a deck park will give you access to all three!)

  • What does a Deck Park mean to you? What is the possibility?

  • Would a bridge be sufficient?

THANKS!


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