This 2001 photo shows the northbound F.E. Everett Turnpike (US 3 section) at EXIT 2 (Nashua Circumferential Highway) in Nashua. The opening of this interchange coincided with reconstruction of the mainline turnpike and addition of C/D roads in the 1997-2001 period. (Photo by Jim K. Georges.)
FROM THE MASSACHUSETTS LINE TO THE STATE CAPITAL: The completion of the New Hampshire Turnpike (I-95) in 1950 prompted officials in Concord to replicate the success of that toll road with two additional turnpikes. In 1953, the New Hampshire State Legislature approved construction of the "Central New Hampshire Turnpike" and the Spaulding Turnpike. The "Central New Hampshire Turnpike," which was designed to link the Northwest Expressway (US 3) in Massachusetts with the state capital in Concord, was named in honor of the state's first highway commissioner, F.E. Everett.
Construction of the initial 19 miles of the Everett Turnpike began soon after it was approved, but it did not proceed without controversy. More than 160 landowners filed suit against the state for damages related to property acquisitions, including the former Edgcomb Steel plant on West Hollis Street in Manchester. Merchants in downtown Manchester also fought against the turnpike, fearing the loss of business from reduced traffic on Main Street, which had been the busiest road in New Hampshire before the turnpike era.
The initial length of the four-lane turnpike from EXIT 3 (Daniel Webster Highway) in Nashua north to I-293 EXIT 4 (US 3 / NH 3A / Queen City Avenue) in Manchester was opened to traffic on August 20, 1955. There were only three interchanges on the original turnpike: Daniel Webster Highway, EXIT 7 (NH 101A / Amherst Street) in Nashua, and Queen City Avenue. A single 25-cent toll plaza in at the Thornton's Ferry interchange in Merrimack (near today's EXIT 11 / Continental Boulevard) financed the $23 million cost of the turnpike. In the month after it opened, the turnpike carried approximately 4,000 vehicles per day (AADT).
On August 29, 1957, the Everett Turnpike was extended north 17 miles north to its terminus in Concord, which lies at the current EXIT 13 (US 3 / Manchester Street) on I-93. A second 25-cent toll plaza was erected in Hooksett for the extended turnpike. The creation of the Interstate highway system, and specifically the beginning of construction on I-93 in 1958, rendered any potential northerly extension of the Everett Turnpike moot. To avoid unnecessary duplication, state officials decided to incorporate the turnpike from Manchester north to Concord into I-93; from Manchester south to the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border, the free I-93 avoided the immediate Nashua area altogether.
Additional ramps were added to the Everett Turnpike at EXIT 5 (NH 111 / West Hollis Street) and EXIT 6 (NH 130 / Broad Street) in Nashua in 1960, and at EXIT 4 (East Dunstable Road) in 1964. One last segment of the Everett Turnpike - a nine-mile-long southerly extension to the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border - was opened to traffic in 1966, completing the 44.7-mile-long turnpike and providing a direct expressway link to US 3 in Massachusetts.
This 2002 photo shows the northbound F.E. Everett Turnpike (I-293 section) at EXIT 6 (Amoskeag Street / Goffstown Road) in Manchester. Long-range plans call for widening the I-293 section through Manchester to six lanes. (Photo by Jim K. Georges.)
EXPANDING THE TURNPIKE: By the late 1970's, the Everett Turnpike had evolved from a weekend gateway to a major commuter route, and was straining from a traffic load of 50,000 vehicles per day with an expected doubling in the next 20 years. The first major improvement was completed in 1978 when the I-93 section of the Everett Turnpike was widened from the I-93 / I-293 junction in Hooksett north to the I-89 junction in Bow.
In 1985, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) proposed more than $200 million worth of projects that were to widen the turnpike, add new interchanges, and relocate toll plazas. Some of the highlights of the Everett Turnpike improvements stipulated in that ten-year plan were as follows:
The first project was the construction of a new EXIT 8 (NH 101A Bypass / Somerset Parkway) to relieve congestion at EXIT 7 (NH 101A / Amherst Street) in Nashua. Construction began in 1986 and was completed two years later at a cost of $10 million.
The new Bedford mainline toll plaza opened in 1989 at a cost of $5 million, replacing the old Thornton's Ferry toll plaza in Merrimack. (The toll plaza was expanded in a $7 million project completed in 2005.)
In 1990, a new EXIT 10 (Industrial Drive) was built in Merrimack to serve Merrimack Industrial Park. This interchange, which was built at a cost of $22 million, includes ramp tolls on the northbound off-ramp and southbound-on ramp. This was followed two years later by the completion of the Camp Sargent Road bypass in Merrimack; the $8 million project financed as part of the turnpike budget connects to EXIT 10 and EXIT 11.
In 1993, a rebuilt EXIT 11 (Greeley Street / Continental Boulevard) was opened to traffic after four years of design and construction. The $11 million interchange includes ramp tolls on the northbound off-ramp and southbound on-ramps.
The most ambitious part of the Everett Turnpike improvement was the widening of the mainline turnpike from the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border north to EXIT 8 in Nashua. Although right-of-way acquisition and some bridge construction on the northbound collector-distributor (C/D) road began as early as the late 1980's, most of the actual construction began in 1997. In addition to widening the turnpike to six lanes (from four), the project added a new interchange at EXIT 2 (Nashua Circumferential Highway) and a new northbound C/D road through EXIT 1 (Spit Brook Road) and EXIT 2. The $194 million project was completed in 2002.
By the time all of these projects were completed in 2002 - seven years behind schedule - the total of the improvements had risen to nearly $300 million.
In 2005, the NHDOT began work on a project to widen the I-293 section of the Everett Turnpike at EXIT 5 (Granite Street) in Manchester, rebuild the existing northbound off-ramp and southbound on-ramp, and add a new northbound on-ramp and southbound off-ramp. The $55 million project, which was completed in 2008 in conjunction with work to widen the Granite Street Bridge, is part of a more comprehensive long-range plan to widen nearly four miles of the Manchester / I-293 turnpike section to six lanes (from the current four lanes) from the NH 101 junction north to EXIT 6 (Amoskeag Street / Goffstown Road), as well as add missing interchange movements at EXIT 7 (NH 3A / Front Street).
In 2007, the NHDOT undertook a simultaneous project to build the Manchester Airport Access Road, a 1.5-mile-long, four-lane controlled-access spur from the Everett Turnpike leading directly to Manchester Airport. The $123 million project, which includes a new trumpet interchange (EXIT 13) at the Bedford toll plaza, is scheduled for completion in late 2010.
THE TURNPIKE TODAY: According to the NHDOT, the Everett Turnpike carries as many as 125,000 vehicles per day, roughly double the amount of traffic it carried in the early 1990's. The turnpike joined the EZ-Pass system in 2005 when readers were added to the Bedford and Hooksett mainline toll plazas, as well as at the EXIT 10, EXIT 11, and EXIT 12 ramps in Merrimack and I-93 EXIT 11 (NH 3A) ramps in Hooksett. There is a state welcome center along the northbound lanes at EXIT 6, and there are state-run liquor stores located along the I-93 section of the turnpike just north of the Hooksett toll plaza.
This 2003 photo shows the northbound F.E. Everett Turnpike (I-93 section) approaching EXIT 11 (NH 3A) in Hooksett. Everett Turnpike shields do not appear on the I-93 section of the turnpike. (Photo by Jim K. Georges.)
A SINGLE DESIGNATION FOR THE EVERETT TURNPIKE: The Everett Turnpike should be signed as I-293 along its entire length from the I-93 split in Hooksett south to the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border, where the I-293 designation would continue south into the Bay State on the Northwest Expressway (current US 3). The remnant east-west, toll-free section of I-293 would become part of a new I-193, which would be extended east along the NH 101 Expressway toward the Seacoast.
Exit numbers on the extended I-293 through Manchester would be changed to continue the exit numbering scheme from the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border as follows:
EXIT 13 (new): Manchester Airport Access Road EXIT 14 (old EXIT 3): Current I-293 / NH 101 (re-designated I-193) EXIT 15 (old EXIT 4): US 3 / NH 3A (Queen City Avenue) EXIT 16 (old EXIT 5): Granite Street EXIT 17 (old EXIT 6): Amoskeag Street / Goffstown Road EXIT 18 (old EXIT 7): NH 3A (Front Street) EXIT 19 (JCT): I-93 (Alan B. Shepard Highway)
SOURCES: Proposed Improvement Program: Central Turnpike, Wilbur Smith and Associates (1980); Report to the Governor by the Governor's Advisory Commission on Highways, New Hampshire Department of Transportation (1985); "New Hampshire Sets Highway Compromise" by Norma Love, The Boston Globe (6/01/1986); Major Highway Projects in the Nashua Area, Nashua Regional Planning Commission (1988); Nashua-Hudson Circumferential Highway: Final Environmental Impact Statement, New Hampshire Department of Transportation (1993); "50 Years Ago, Region Joined the Superhighway Era" by Dean Shalhoup, The Nashua Telegraph (8/21/2005); "New Hampshire Turnpike Timeline," The Nashua Telegraph (8/21/2005); "Manchester Widens River Bridge" by Paul Fournier, New England Construction (7/09/2007); "Manchester Airport Access Road Underway" by Peter Samuel, Toll Roads News (8/18/2007); State of New Hampshire's Annual Report With Respect to the State of New Hampshire Turnpike System Revenue Bonds, New Hampshire Department of Transportation (2007); Josh Copeland; Pete Nersesian; Alexander Svirsky.
US 3, I-293, and I-93 shields by Ralph Herman. Everett Turnpike shield by Josh Copeland. Lightposts by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.