Critics of the long-planned but likely still distant Langley Parkway extension have prepared to oppose the project, launching a website and demanding that Concord City Council remove it from the road improvement scheme. fixed assets from the city budget.
“You’re going to start seeing city council discussing this,” City Manager Tom Aspell said during the annual State of the City address last month as he showed a plan for a 1.6 extension. mile of boardwalk.
Langley’s 2-lane northern bypass would cost the city between $17 million and $18 million, Aspell said. If built, the new road would begin behind Concord Hospital and spill out at the intersection of Bouton Street and North State Street near Concord Fire Headquarters.
“A lot of things are driving this,” Aspell said in April. These factors include a fire department study from January on ambulance response times and Brady Sullivan’s plans to turn the former Lincoln Financial property into housing. Meanwhile, Concord Hospital continues to grow and property owners near Bouton Street and North State Street want certainty before developing land that could be affected by a new road.
Meanwhile, Ward 5 Councilor Stacey Brown said she was inundated with emails from constituents alarmed that the mention meant the project would finally go ahead. “From the state of the city, this has been the dominant issue,” Brown said.
Brown submitted an information letter with residents’ scruples on the agenda for the May 9 city council meeting, and more than 300 residents signed a petition to council registering their disapproval. A group called Concord Greenspace Coalition NH has also published a website describing the reasons why the members want the project to be abandoned.
The letter Brown sent to the city council argued that the Langley extension would reduce green space in the city and hinder access to recreational areas. She also disputed that the Langley Parkway extension would improve ambulance response times and estimated the total cost to ratepayers at nearly $22 million.
Brown considers the wooded area the boardwalk would pass through as a valuable natural resource for Concord and something that can draw people to the city. “It’s an asset, and it’s something people in multiple neighborhoods use,” she said in an interview.
His goal, and the goal of other residents who oppose the project, is to remove Langley from the budget’s capital improvement program in the next budget.
The Langley Parkway project is listing as part of the current year capital improvement program for funding in fiscal years 2024 and 2026. The description of CIP #40 comes with a price tag of $12.5 million, including including a private donation of $2.8 million.
State law allows municipalities like Concord to create a capital improvement program for capital investments in facilities, infrastructure and equipment to be implemented in future years, allowing the council to plan budgets for the future and avoid sudden increases in tax rates.
Concord features 10 years of projects in the annual capital improvement program, a practice in place since fiscal year 2011. Over 100 projects are included in the current capital improvement program. Funding is only allocated to projects in the upcoming fiscal year.
Projects are added to the capital improvement program during the annual budget adoption process, which begins next week on May 12, when city council receives a copy of the proposed budget. A session on the capital improvement program is scheduled for June 2 and public hearings on the budget are scheduled for June 9.
Although the final section of Langley’s three-phase expansion returned to the public eye in April, the road has been part of the city’s long-term road planning for decades. Concord’s 2030 Master Plan refers to the construction of a northern section of Langley Parkway as “the largest and most needed upgrade to the city’s road network”.
A transport feasibility 2015 study who put the cost at around $13 million to $15 million pointed out that the Langley expansion could create better emergency access to the hospital’s Level 2 trauma center and create a secondary access route to the case where Pleasant Street would be blocked. He also said the new road could reduce congestion from cars crossing residential side streets to avoid busier routes.
Between 32 and 36 properties could be affected by the project, depending on the plan followed, according to the study. “The conceptual designs indicate that no full ownership acquisition will be required to accommodate the project, only small strip areas for (the right-of-way),” the Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. report said.
The city’s deputy director for development, Carlos Baía, said that although the project has been on the master plan for a long time, city staff have not been tasked by the council to review its implementation.
While some residents who signed the petition expressed concern that there had not been enough opportunities for public participation in the project, other councilors said they were frustrated with the “misconceptions” of opponents of Langley – including the idea that funding for the road would be approved without a transparent process.
“If, by any stretch of the imagination, this project were to go ahead, there would be a lot of public meetings and public hearings,” said At-Large Advisor Byron Champlin. Champlin called the money set aside for Langley under the capital improvement program “just a placeholder.”
“I don’t think we have the resources to move this forward right now. I think we have other pressing needs,” he said, including purchasing an additional ambulance and adding staff to the police department.
Another newcomer to the city council is Ward 4 Councilor Karen McNamara. Like Brown and Ward 6 Councilman Paula McLaughlin, this spring will be McNamara’s first budget cycle. She heard residents in Ward 4 worry that continuing construction of the Langley extension would mean cutting down trees or losing access to walking paths, but she stressed that council would have to approve all appropriations for the project.
“If it comes to a place where the city council is discussing it, I’m sure there would be more data that I would like to see as to why to consider this plan,” McNamara said. “It’s not even something the city council is working on right now.”