DHMC, others to pay portion of road upgrade

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/31/2021 10:20:21 PM
Modified: 3/31/2021 10:20:17 PM

LEBANON — Plans to upgrade a heavily trafficked intersection near Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center would see the hospital and nearby property owners split planning and construction costs over multiple years.

But the burden won’t be evenly applied to all.

The hospital — which owns 10 properties within an assessment district proposed by city planners — would be on the hook for more than 83% of the price tag for projects that will cost at least hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Officials say that’s because the majority of drivers passing through the intersection of Mount Support Road and Lahaye Drive are on their way to and from DHMC.

Lebanon Planning Director David Brooks said Tuesday night that the hospital complex off of Route 120 accounts for 1,749 cars, or about 94%, of the 1,855 that drive through during the busiest morning commute hour of 7 to 8 a.m.

Construction of a new $150 million patient tower is expected to increase those figures, Brooks said, adding that the intersection is “failing from a transportation standpoint.”

Traffic jams are becoming more prevalent.

“Certain vehicle movements are already beginning to fail because of overcapacity,” he told more than 20 people who participated in a virtual community forum.

It’s not just DHMC’s expansion that worries Lebanon’s planning staff. Several new developments planned for Mount Support Road are expected to add hundreds more cars to the intersection in the coming years.

Massachusetts developer Saxon Partners recently won Planning Board approval to build 250 units in an apartment complex on the road, while construction is underway on a 309-unit apartment complex put forward by Dartmouth College and New Jersey developer Michaels Student Living.

Vermont-based developer The Braverman Co. also submitted conceptual plans to build a 202-unit multifamily development on the same stretch, at 402 Mount Support Road.

“There’s been a significant amount of new development proposed and approved in the Mount Support Road corridor in the last 18 months or so,” Brooks said.

To mitigate those developments, Brooks is proposing to create a district of 24 properties that would together pay for upgrades to the Mount Support Road and Lahaye Drive intersection, starting with a study that’s expected to cost $250,000.

Under the city’s plan, property owners would be charged based on their future use of the intersection. DHMC would pay for almost $209,000, while Dartmouth College would be billed $9,500, and Saxon Partners would pay $7,500.

Meanwhile, Lebanon, which expects a certain level of “background growth” in the coming years, would be on the hook for $18,600.

Brooks said he’s not sure what sort of improvements the study will call for, although some initial analysis suggests the intersection may need additional lanes. The city, he said, also hopes to build some pedestrian and bicycle improvements, including a multi-use path extending north of Lahaye Drive.

A project to build a path connecting Route 120 with the intersection using federal grants is expected to start in 2023, according to New Hampshire’s 10-year transportation plan.

“That connectivity piece, building our network so people don’t always have to drive to get around, that’s a goal that we’re trying to achieve,” he said.

Bill Young, a member of the Hanover Bike Walk Committee, said he supports the idea of improvements at the intersection and encouraged to continue connecting sidewalks and bike lanes.

“I would strongly encourage a holistic look at this whole thing, big-picture look,” said Young, a retired DHMC physician. “How do you move people from Lebanon up Mount Support Road to DHMC?”

While developers with Braverman and Saxon Partners listened to the community forum, no one with those two companies shared their thoughts on the proposed funding district. Phone messages left with officials at the firms on Wednesday were not returned.

In an email, David Duncan, vice president of facilities management at DHMC, said the hospital will “continue to work with the City of Lebanon on these necessary improvements.”

“We understand the costs which will be proportionally absorbed by Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center for these improvements due to the anticipated travel impact as a result of our new Patient Pavilion,” he said.

Brooks said the assessment district will next be discussed at the Lebanon City Council’s April 21 meeting.

A public hearing would then be set for May 19, when a formal vote on whether to implement the plan will take place.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

Valley News

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