A project with a decades-old history in the area may need some more time to get started.

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) recently announced that its Exit 4A project would be delayed due to high costs presented during the bidding process.

The state opened price proposals for the Design-Build project to construct Exit 4A on Interstate 93 between Derry and Londonderry.

Unfortunately, according to a statement from NHDOT, the lowest of the three price proposals exceeded the department's cost estimate and the project construction budget by more than $30 million.

As a result, the department will not be moving forward with the award of the contract at this time, the statement read.

The Exit 4A plan has a long history, dating back decades and was often a controversial topic among those either for or against the project.

Back in December 2015, the Derry Town Council voted to enter into a three-party agreement with Londonderry and NHDOT to move forward with the project. Both towns are committed to spending $5 million in total each for Exit 4A, with a total price tag at approximately $56 million.

The planned route involves a new diamond interchange on I-93 in Londonderry, approximately one mile north of Exit 4.

A one-mile connector would be built from that interchange across to Folsom Road, near the intersection of High Street and Madden Road in Derry. Folsom and Tsienneto roads would get improvements and upgrades across to where Exit 4A would end at Tsienneto and Route 102.

Some properties, both residential and business, would be affected by the work, including the Salvation Army facility on Folsom Road in Derry.

The plan is all part of a goal to improve the traffic flow coming off the interstate through Derry and to promote economic vitality in the Derry/Londonderry area, state officials said at prior public meetings.

As part of the Exit 4A project, an underpass was included in the design to provide a safe crossing as Derry's trail system continues toward an eventual connection to north Londonderry trails.

Hearing of the project delay came as a disappointment to Derry rail-trail supporters.

Mark Connors of the Derry Rail Trail Alliance said since the trail organization's founding back in 2007, it's been a mission to see the entire rail trail system in the area completed from Windham, through Derry and connecting on to Londonderry.

"While we were able to complete the sections from downtown (Derry) south to Windham fairly quickly, the northern connection to Londonderry has proven challenging due to the impending Exit 4A construction," Connors said. "We have patiently waited and worked closely with the town Public Works and Planning departments and lobbied very hard to have the rail trail included in the plans for the Exit 4A project so the trail was not 'cut off' by the new access road to Exit 4A."

Connors added as part of the state's plan, it was agreed a tunnel would be created under the project's access road to help support the eventual connection to Londonderry.

There is an approximate one-mile section that is currently privately owned that would be needed to complete the connection to Londonderry, Connors said.

Connors said with the Exit 4A plan getting the green light and the planned "design-build" approach for the project in place, trail supporters hoped to see the tunnel built in the early phases of 2022, working with that private landowner to hopefully secure the property needed to make the final trail connection to Londonderry.

The delay is now putting off those hopes. But Derry's rail-trail did get some good news recently.

Last month, the contract for the needed work to complete a section of trail through Hood Park off Rollins Street and across Hood Dam was approved and work should begin soon.

"But without the Exit 4A project, we are once again in limbo to complete that last one mile until this project is rebid," Connors said.

Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith said the delay is another bump in the road for the long-awaited project.

"It's obviously disappointing but we understand," Smith said. "The project isn't dead. It's just delayed."

For Connors, it's a project trail supporters in both Derry and Londonderry want to see completed.

"We will circle the wagons once again, then discuss ways to move ahead," Connors said.

The state will reevaluate the Exit 4A scope of work and the best way to move forward. NHDOT will also continue to work with Derry and Londonderry, as well as affected property owners, to determine the next steps in the process and how to move on with a more cost-effective design that can be rebid.

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