By APRIL GUILMET
Union Leader Correspondent
LONDONDERRY -- With the state Executive Council’s approval of a $36.7 million contract for the widening of the Exit 5 area on Interstate 93, Londonderry town officials said the improvements will leave the area bursting with development possibilities in the coming years.
“Hopefully, it will improve the safety and traffic circulation throughout this area,” Community Development Director Andre Garron said on Wednesday, just hours after the new contract was announced.
According to state Department of Transportation Commissioner George Campbell, the project, expected to be completed by June 2014, includes the reconstruction of two miles of the highway and surrounding areas on Route 28, as well as improvements to both the north and south exits.
Candia’s Severino Trucking Company was awarded the contract, and the project will mark the state’s first time using Garvee Bonds, which are backed by future highway funds due to the state.
Garron said the project would increase the capacity of the Route 28 roadway from Liberty Drive to Perkins Road, as well as improve the capacity and circulation of Exit 5.
“The improved functionality of this area will help address some of the traffic-related growth issues Londonderry and abutting communities will face over the next 10 to 20 years,” Garron added.
Though initial work took place around Exit 5 several years ago when the nearby Park & Ride was built, Garron said work remains to be completed on the northbound off ramp, as well as surrounding sections of Route 28.
This past spring, Londonderry town officials reached general consensus on permitted uses for the area and dimensional standards for the town’s Route 28 Performance Overlay District (POD) surrounding Exit 5.The area encompasses most of the property fronting on Route 28 from Symmes and Vista Ridge drives all the way east to Interstate 93 and Exit 5. According to the town’s Small Area Master Plan, which was adopted in September 2009, town officials had already agreed that a main priority is to protect the overall appearance of Route 28 “as an important gateway to Londonderry.”
The plan dictates that removal of the existing Route 28 Performance Overlay District at Exit 5 may be considered, with one possibility being the creation of a Gateway Business District.
The plan further recommended allowing higher density and clustering with mixed land use permitted surrounding Exit 5.
During discussions on appropriate development for that section of town last spring, members of the Planning Board agreed some preferable uses for the area might be cultural and performing arts centers, business centers, conference centers, financial institutions, vocational training facilities, child care and assisted living.