Circumferential Highway (Nashua)

The Circumferential Highway is the common name for a bypass route around the city of Nashua in southern New Hampshire, most of which has not yet been built. The purpose of the highway is to provide easier access to the F.E. Everett Turnpike and U.S. Route 3 in Nashua. Most of the highway is planned to be built in Hudson, with small sections also built through the towns of Litchfield and Merrimack as well as the city of Nashua.

The extant road does not have a state route designation, and is signed as "TO US 3 / Everett Turnpike" in the westbound direction and "TO NH 3A" in the eastbound direction.

The only segment that has been built is a short 2-mile (3.2 km) interchange road between US 3, the Daniel Webster Highway, and N.H. Route 3A. This section utilizes the Sagamore Bridge, one of the two bridges over the Merrimack River connecting Hudson to Nashua. The completed section begins at US 3, has a single interchange with the D.W. Highway, crosses the river, and terminates at NH Route 3A in Hudson.

The Circumferential Highway where it crosses the Merrimack River on the Sagamore Bridge

The Circumferential Highway has been planned since the 1950s,[2] as the need for such a road has been apparent for a long time. To date, however, only a short 2-mile (3.2 km) segment has been built. One of the major provisions of the plan for the highway is to provide a new crossing over the Merrimack River.[2] Currently there are four bridges over the Merrimack River between Lowell, Massachusetts and Manchester, New Hampshire. Drivers wishing to access U.S. Route 3 from the east side of the river have the following options (listed here from south to north):

The Circumferential Highway would provide an additional river crossing between Nashua and Manchester, where one does not exist. The Sagamore Bridge crossing south of downtown Nashua was expanded and forms the only portion of the Circumferential Highway that has been constructed.

The project has not been without controversy. Political and environmental roadblocks have caused delays for years. The highway would be built mostly through the town of Hudson, as well as small portions of Litchfield and Merrimack. This would require the seizure and destruction of many homes, and the filling in of several wetlands. A 1993 report by the EPA expressed an "intent to veto" the project as it was then planned, all but killing the full highway. Of particular concern is the impact on the Pennichuck Brook watershed, a series of ponds and creeks along the Nashua/Merrimack border. A second study has been ongoing since 1995, but no action has been made on it.[2][3]

Additionally, despite the population boom, there may no longer be the need for the entirety of the road as planned. The part of the highway that has been built, including the Sagamore Bridge rebuild, has bypassed the worst traffic problem, and allows easy access to U.S. 3 as well as the D.W. Highway shopping district. Widening of Route 3A in Hudson has alleviated a lot of the traffic problem as well. Travellers also have alternate routes, especially for longer distance north–south travel. Drivers heading north of Manchester or south of Lowell can take I-93 to the east. Also, US 3 in Nashua has been extensively rebuilt and widened, improving access and capacity.

Ten different alternatives have been proposed to the road.[2] A brief description of some of them:

Although recent road improvements have helped alleviate some of the traffic problems, other problems that the Circumferential Highway project is supposed to remedy still have not been addressed:

As of 2013, the northern terminus plan was considered abandoned by NH-DOT. In Merrimack, former easements are being reclaimed as buildable land.[4]

Several other road improvement projects have been considered to complement the Circumferential Highway:[2]