DERRY — Whether on the ground or in the air, there are many ways to get from one point to another in the Granite State and beyond.
Local officials, business owners and residents heard details about the planned Exit 4A project in Londonderry and Derry, and also got an update on the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport from new director Ted Kitchens at a forum sponsored by the Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce at Brookstone Park.
The morning kicked off with the Exit 4A project, a plan moving forward after many decades.
Nicole Fox, a senior engineer with the firm Fuss and O'Neill led the discussion.
The new interchange will be located between the existing Exits 4 and 5 off Interstate 93 in Londonderry. The purpose of the project is to relieve traffic delays and congestion along Route 102 through Derry and to allow for regional economic development, Fox said.
In December 2015, 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 each for the project.
The project is included in the state's 10-year plan with a price tag of approximately $56 million.
The planned route involves a new diamond interchange on I-93 in Londonderry, approximately a 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.
The total distance from the interstate over to Route 102 is approximately three miles, Fox said, adding major improvements along Tsienneto, including wider shoulders, will also help support added safety for both drivers, bikers, or those walking.
The intersection at Tsienneto Road and Route 102 is also earmarked for major improvements including signal lights and added signals at the nearby turn onto North Shore Road.
"That's currently a very difficult decision for turning left (onto Route 102) from North Shore," Fox said.
Thirteen residential properties and four business units — with a total of 25 businesses — will be affected by the work. Relocation assistance will be given to each landowner or tenant whose property will be impacted by Exit 4A.
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.
Fox said Exit 4A construction could begin by late summer of 2020 with a completion date at the end of 2023.
"And 4A won't impact the work they are currently doing on Interstate 93," she said.
Derry state Rep. Stephen Pearson said he has heard about the Exit 4A project since he was a child.
"I'm cautiously optimistic any time someone puts a time frame on this," he said.
Attention then turned toward the airport.
For Kitchens, only on the job as airport director for seven months, it's time to "get off the ground and look to the sky."
Kitchens provided updates on the challenges facing the airport, from tackling reasons why more people aren't flying from the New Hampshire hub to other destinations, and why it's important to attract other airlines to come to Manchester.
Major carriers now are JetBlue, American, Delta and Southwest, but Kitchens said Southwest is eyeing a more western market for new destinations.
"They are so focused on their California to Hawaii experiment," Kitchens said, "and they are pivoting away from the New England region."
He cited dropping numbers in capacity at the airport, but said there is hope.
Kitchens said the airport will take a new approach to marketing, where the regions are that are "leaking" with people not choosing to use the more regional airport.
"Who are they flying, where are we leaking? What zip code?" Kitchens said, adding there will be a concerted effort to gather more consumer information and data to help market a more advantageous flying experience for customers.
"And we are working very hard to find a new carrier," Kitchens said.
The airport will also upgrade its FastPass/frequent parking program where flyers earn points to redeem in many areas.
Right now, the airport has 34 daily flights; 12 hubs are served, with 3,450 daily seats; 184 flights are non-stop or one-stop destinations and the average fare is $410. Most connections are less than 90 minutes.
"It's all about a choice of how you want to fly," Kitchens said.