Airport access road project nearing completion
Friday, August 12, 2011
BEDFORD – Drivers traveling on and around the Bedford Tolls area of the F.E. Everett Turnpike this summer have seen their share of delays with construction on the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport Access Road connecting the turnpike to the airport.
This November, those hassles will seem worth it when the project’s completion, according to New Hampshire Department of Transportation Project Manager Alex Vogt.
The road, which will officially be named Raymond Wieczorek Drive after the Executive Councilor and former Manchester mayor.
Two of the eight contracts for the $175 million project will finish up this fall, Vogt said, a project that has been in the works since the first contract went out in 2007.
One of the remaining contracts is for construction on two roundabouts located on the last section of the access road, coming into the airport along Perimeter Road, just south of where drivers go under the taxiway into the airport, Vogt said. One roundabout is almost done, and drivers are already using half of it to get to the airport.
The other contract will put the final touches on vinyl paving, vinyl markings, vinyl signs, and other miscellaneous details and signals on the access road, Vogt said.
The road will open to an expected 27,000 vehicles a day in November, about two years ahead of schedule, officials said.
Six of the project’s major contracts are already complete.
“The Merrimack River Bridge is complete other than the final paving on it,” Vogt said. “The work on Route 3 in Bedford is complete. One of the signals is operating, the other is covered. That work is basically done. We’re just waiting to open up the rest of the airport access road and ramps. The widening on the turnpike is done, you can see that that’s complete.”
The project rebuilds about two miles of the turnpike and about a mile of Route 3 in Bedford and Merrimack. There will be full interchanges with Route 3 and the turnpike, and connections to Route 3A in Litchfield, when it is done.
Along with the 1,200-foot Merrimack River Bridge, a paved path route along the south side of the bridge will allow pedestrians and bikes to get across the river safely, tying Bedford to neighborhoods on the Manchester side, up through Londonderry, Vogt said. Pedestrians will be able to ride bikes across the river on the shoulder of the Merrimack River Bridge, and exit on the Bedford side.
“On a lot of our projects we try to accommodate all users, and there’s not too many crossings on the Merrimack River nearby,” Vogt said. “We want to make sure we accommodate bikes and pedestrians... They’ll be allowed to ride on the road if they prefer. A lot of bicyclists do prefer to ride with the traffic if they’re experienced.”
Throughout the construction process, the Manchester Airport Access Road has seen few issues or delays, and benefitted from stimulus funds in 2009 that actually advanced the project’s completion schedule, Vogt said.
“We had about $15 million (in stimulus funds) that helped to get a couple contracts out back in 2009,” Vogt said. “That allowed us to move up these last contracts a little earlier to get them done.”
Drivers around the area have been patient with the construction of the airport access road, Vogt said.
“Most of this work has been done out of traffic so it’s been pretty easy to construct,” Vogt said. “Along Route 3 I didn’t hear of any complaints. Most people are waiting to get it open so they can use it. I’ve heard from people asking when it will be done–that they can’t wait to use it.”
Commercial developers are also looking forward to its finish, Vogt said. Around the airport access road on both sides of the Merrimack River, there has been increased commercial interest and plans for development.
“On the east side there’s a large area of undeveloped land in Londonderry that likely will be developed as soon as this is open,” Vogt said. “The Bedford side, including Merrimack, there is quite a bit of interest in development coming along. In Manchester, too, there’s some developers waiting to coordinate for the road to come along also.”
A ribbon cutting ceremony, to be announced later in the year, will celebrate the access road’s official opening, Vogt said. The road will open up to the public for pedestrian use before it opens up to traffic.
“I think it will be exciting to have it open,” Vogt said. “It provides another link, it saves some time getting to the airport, it will be a smoother transition to get to the airport, and it will accommodate all users. It’s also a beautiful sight when you go across the Merrimack River. The views up and down the river are quite stunning.”
Maryalice Gill can be reached at 594-6490 or firstname.lastname@example.org.