Work begins on road to access N.H. airport


BEDFORD, N.H. (AP) – Construction has begun on a highway to make it easier to get to Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.

The four-lane access road will carry traffic from the Everett Turnpike in Bedford across the Merrimack River and through an industrial section of Londonderry to the airport.

The road isn’t scheduled to open until 2011.

Preliminary work has started, and by winter, traffic south of the Bedford toll plaza will be shifted to accommodate construction.

The access road – in the works for two decades – will accommodate increased use and relieve busy Brown Avenue. The project will cost $172 million, with 80 percent coming from the federal government, and will be done in eight phases, said Alex Vogt, project manager for the state Department of Transportation.

Step one is to build a 1,200 foot-long, $30 million bridge across the Merrimack River, Vogt said. Designs call for a six-section structure that rests on five piers, three of which will be in or near the river. The work will take about three years.

Work also has started on building a bridge and ramps to loop traffic underneath the Bedford tolls. Eventually, it will extend over Daniel Webster Highway and connect to the river bridge. The project will cost an estimated $20 million and take two years, Vogt said.

Traffic south of the toll plaza will be shifted, disrupting traffic, after preliminary work is finished, probably not until winter, Vogt said.

An extra tollbooth will also be added to try to relieve backups.

The access road has a long history.

Lawmakers requested a study of its prospects in 1989. The idea was debated over the next few years, with some in support but others arguing instead to improve existing roads. Some opposed the state taking property for the project. Then, bald eagles were discovered nesting along the river in the path of the project, which further delayed it.

In response, state officials reworked the design, said Vogt.

“I think we’ve gone over all the hurdles,” Vogt said. “Right now, it’s just getting out the rest of these contracts and coordinating them so they’re done on time. I don’t see any major problems coming up. It’s moving along.”

The road is projected to handle traffic for at least 14 years, perhaps longer, said Vogt.

Based on a 2005 study, the access road is projected to handle traffic for 20 years, said Vogt.

Information from: The Telegraph,

AP-ES-07-18-07 0924EDT