This 2006 photo shows the northbound Spaulding Turnpike (NH 16) at EXIT 6 in Dover. Westbound US 4 splits from the turnpike at this exit. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
FROM THE SEACOAST TO ROCHESTER: 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 "Eastern Turnpike" - later renamed the Spaulding Turnpike - and the F.E. Everett Turnpike. The Spaulding Turnpike was designed to link the Portsmouth Traffic Circle, which originally served as the northern terminus of the New Hampshire Turnpike, with the Dover-Rochester area and eventually the Lakes Region.
Construction of the initial five miles of the Spaulding Turnpike from Portsmouth north to EXIT 6 (US 4) in Dover began soon after it was approved. The four-lane turnpike narrowed down to two lanes across Little Bay on the original General Sullivan Bridge - which was built in the mid-1930's - with the proviso that a second span be provided for two additional lanes in the future. Along the "free" section near Portsmouth, there also were two non-freeway features - an at-grade intersection (at the current site of EXIT 1 / Gosling Road) and an at-grade railroad crossing - that were built to serve Pease Air Force Base, which was developed in the early 1950's. The initial section of the Spaulding Turnpike, which also carried the easternmost part of the US 4 designation, was opened to traffic in 1956.
The second section, which stretched 17 miles north from EXIT 6 to the US 202 / NH 11 / NH 125 junction in Rochester (the former EXIT 17), was opened to traffic in 1957. This section was built with four lanes from EXIT 6 north to EXIT 12 (NH 125) in Rochester; it was built as a two-lane undivided ("super 2") section from EXIT 12 north to the US 202 / NH 11 / NH 125 junction on a right-of-way designed for a future expansion to four lanes with a grassy median. Part of this section of turnpike is co-signed with US 202 (between EXIT 13 and EXIT 16) and NH 11 (between EXIT 15 and EXIT 16).
AND ON TO THE LAKES REGION: In 1973, the New Hampshire Department of Public Works and Highways, the predecessor to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT), announced plans for a 12-mile-long extension from the Cocheco River in Rochester to the NH 16 junction just south of the Milton-Union town line. The final environmental impact statement released three years later had the following design features, which were designed to accommodate a tripling of traffic in the following 20 years:
The entire length of the extension was to be built within a 325-foot-wide right-of-way. The initial construction was to provide for a 44-foot-wide, two-lane undivided roadway with two 12-foot-wide travel lanes and flanking 10-foot-wide shoulders. Three climbing lanes (two northbound and one southbound were incorporated into the design. The wide right-of-way ultimately was to accommodate a full four-lane freeway with northbound and southbound carriageways separated by a 40-foot-wide median and a 100-foot-wide landscaped buffer in each direction.
Just north of EXIT 15 (NH 11) in Rochester, the Spaulding Turnpike was to veer north from the original alignment, which veered east toward the US 202 / NH 11 / NH 125 junction. A new partial cloverleaf interchange (EXIT 16) was to be built to connect not only this junction, but also Chestnut Hill Road to the west. The original turnpike alignment serves as the connecting road; it was extended west to Chestnut Hill Road.
A diamond interchange was to be built at EXIT 17 (Farmington Road) in Milton, while a partial cloverleaf was to be built at EXIT 18 (Branch Mill Road) in Laskey's Corner. The Spaulding Turnpike was to transition to a two-lane surface road at the junction of former White Mountain Highway (now closed) about three-quarters of a mile north of EXIT 18.
The 12-mile-long Spaulding Turnpike extension was completed in 1981 after three years of construction.
This 2006 photo shows the Spaulding Turnpike crossing Little Bay looking south from Dover. The southbound lanes opened in 1966 and the northbound lanes in 1984. The bridge awaits an expansion that will double its capacity. (Photo by Steve Anderson.)
MODERNIZING THE TURNPIKE: The first project to add capacity to the Spaulding Turnpike was completed in 1966 with the construction of the two-lane Little Bay Bridge, which eased the bottleneck across Little Bay. Northbound traffic used the new nine-span girder bridge while southbound traffic used the existing General Sullivan Bridge. In 1984, the NHDOT shifted southbound traffic onto the 1966 bridge and opened a new bridge for northbound traffic, in effect widening the Little Bay Bridge to four lanes. The old General Sullivan Bridge henceforth was closed to all but non-motorized traffic.
The closure of Pease Air Force Base in 1991 and subsequent redevelopment of the base as an industrial park and freight-only airport presented the NHDOT with an opportunity to upgrade EXIT 1; the Air Force had deeded the state 50 acres to redevelop the at-grade intersection as a grade-separated diamond interchange. This project, which also eliminated the at-grade railroad crossing, was completed in 1993.
WIDENING OVER LITTLE BAY: In 1990, the NHDOT initiated a study to address congestion along the Portsmouth-to-Dover section of the Spaulding Turnpike. The study was suspended in 1992 to allow for the completion of the master plan to redevelop Pease Air Force Base; it was restarted five years later upon completion of the Pease master plan. Upon completion of the study, the NHDOT held a series of public hearings to evaluate highway and bridge widening alternatives, including mass transit.
In May 2008, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) released its record of decision on the "Newington-Dover" widening project. The preferred alternative, which would provide a minimum of six through traffic lanes from the I-95 junction to US 4 in Dover, would be built as follows:
EXIT 2 (Fox Run Road) would be closed in both directions.
EXIT 3 would be expanded to serve an extended Woodbury Avenue / Arboretum Drive to create a second entrance to Pease International Tradeport. The realignment of the mainline turnpike through this area would eliminate the wide median and U-turn ramps at this location, and a partial cloverleaf interchange would be built for extended Woodbury Avenue / Arboretum Drive.
An overpass would be built for a future rail spur serving Pease International Tradeport over a former right-of-way just north of the rebuilt EXIT 3.
Ramps would be realigned slightly at EXIT 4 to permit full access to Shattuck Way and Nimble Hill Road. A new connector road would be built on the west side of the interchange to serve local businesses.
The Little Bay Bridge would be widened to three through travel lanes in each direction (from the existing two lanes) with a full-width (12-foot) auxiliary lane and full-width shoulders running the length of the bridge. The new width of the Little Bay Bridge would be 151 feet, more than double the current width of 65 feet. The existing General Sullivan Bridge - which would be within 15 feet of the newly widened Little Bay Bridge - would be rehabilitated and kept as a non-motorized facility, but strengthened to accommodate emergency response and maintenance vehicles up to a maximum weight of six tons.
EXIT 5 (Hilton Drive) would be closed in the northbound direction. A new connector road would be built from Dover Point Road to Wentworth Terrace and Hilton Park.
EXIT 6 (US 4 West / Dover Point Road) would be rebuilt as a diamond interchange. A new park-and-ride facility would be built at this exit.
The $260 million project is scheduled to begin in 2010 and has a tentative completion date of 2016. It would displace two businesses; it also would affect 31 adjoining properties and 20 acres of wetlands.
WIDENING THROUGH ROCHESTER: In February 2008, the NHDOT began a $177 million project to widen 5.2 miles of the Spaulding Turnpike from EXIT 12 (NH 125) north to EXIT 16 (US 202 / NH 11). The work will widen the original two-lane "super-2" design to a full four-lane, dual-carriageway freeway shared by the rest of the turnpike to the south. Several bridges also will be built, including the bridge over NH 125 at EXIT 12 that has been flagged for replacement since 1992 because of structural deficiencies. The project is slated for completion in late 2012, approximately six years behind the original schedule.
THE TURNPIKE TODAY: According to the NHDOT, the Spaulding Turnpike carries 15,000 vehicles per day (AADT) along its two-lane northerly stretches to as many as 75,000 vehicles per day near the southern terminus in Portsmouth. The turnpike, which has been designated NH 16 along its entire length since 1991, joined the EZ-Pass system in 2005 when readers were added to the Dover and Rochester mainline toll plazas.
WHAT HAPPENED TO EXIT 10? The "missing" interchange was set aside for an east-west turnpike that was to extend west to the eastern terminus of I-393 near Concord. The NHDOT purchased right-of-way for the proposed EXIT 10 for $3 million in 1995, but the completion of the NH 101 Expressway likely precluded the need for the proposed link.
This 2005 photo shows the southbound two-lane section of the Spaulding Turnpike (NH 16) approaching EXIT 13 (US 202 West) in Rochester. US 202 joins the turnpike for a short distance through Rochester before departing at EXIT 13. The two-lane section of turnpike shown here is slated for an upgrade to a full four-lane, dual-carriageway design from EXIT 12 north to EXIT 16. (Photo by Douglas Kerr.)
SOURCES: Spaulding Turnpike, Rochester to Milton: Administrative Action Final Environmental Impact Statement, New Hampshire Department of Public Works and Highways (1976); Report to the Governor by the Governor's Advisory Commission on Highways, New Hampshire Department of Transportation (1985); "Ten Years Is Too Long To Wait for Spaulding Upgrades," The Portsmouth Herald (10/31/2001); "New Hampshire Turnpike Timeline," The Nashua Telegraph (8/21/2005); State of New Hampshire's Annual Report With Respect to the State of New Hampshire Turnpike System Revenue Bonds, New Hampshire Department of Transportation (2005); The State's Effort To Widen Spaulding Turnpike Churns Ahead" by David Darman, New Hampshire Public Radio (11/29/2006); Spaulding Turnpike Improvements, Newington to Dover: Final Environmental Impact Statement, Federal Highway Administration and New Hampshire Department of Transportation (2007); "Turnpike Widening Underway in Rochester" by Adam D. Krauss, Foster's Daily Democrat (2/19/2008); "Big Plans for Little Bay Bridge, Turnpike" by Adam Leech, The Portsmouth Herald (3/07/2008); $15 Million Plan Could Prompt Exit Closings" by Shir Haberman, The Portsmouth Herald (1/05/2009); Josh Copeland; Alexander Svirsky.
NH 16 and US 4 shields by Scott Colbert. Spaulding Turnpike shield by Josh Copeland. Lightposts by Millerbernd Manufacturing Company.