It's been years in the making and now a major transportation project is closer to becoming a reality.
After public meetings, hearings, permitting, design and environmental work, the Exit 4A project is moving forward after the Federal Highway Administration gave a recent approval that will now allow for the beginning of property acquisition, sending out requests for contractors and other construction work.
Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith presented the news at a Town Council meeting Feb. 3, telling councilors Exit 4A planning is "coming to an end in a good way.
Smith said he signed off that day on the official record of decision, completing the environmental impact portion of the process.
"With all signed off, the state Department of Transportation can move forward with their permitting process," Smith said. "They are moving ahead now."
The Exit 4A plan has a long history, dating back decades and is 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, will be affected by the work, including the Salvation Army facility on Folsom Road in Derry. Relocation assistance will be given to each landowner or tenant whose property is impacted.
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 meetings.
As part of the Exit 4A project, an underpass is included in the design to provide a safe crossing as Derry's trail system continues on toward an eventual connection to north Londonderry trails.
Smith said the recent approval is significant.
"It's something that started when I was in elementary school," Smith said. "Now it's 2020 and it's becoming a reality."
Smith added Exit 4A could be under construction by the first or second quarter of 2021.