The Spaulding Turnpike is eastern New Hampshire's major limited access North-South highway linking the Seacoast area and I-95 with Concord via US 4 and with the Lakes Region and White Mountains via NH 16. Recognizing a need to study potential improvements to address safety concerns and increased congestion, Senate Bill 152-FN-A authorized the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) to conduct a study of the approximately 3.5-mile section of the Spaulding Turnpike extending north from Exit 1 (Gosling Road) in Newington to the Dover Toll Plaza just north of Exit 6. The study was initiated in 1990 but suspended in 1992 to allow completion of the Pease Surface Transportation Master Plan. In 1997 the Feasibility Study was resumed to conceptually develop both a short range plan to address existing safety deficiencies, and a range of long term improvement alternatives to be carried forward for detailed engineering and environmental studies. The current project effort has concluded preliminary engineering and environmental studies and evaluated a range of reasonable alternatives within the framework of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). A Preferred Alternative has been recommended to meet the project purpose and need. The project is included in the state's Ten-Year-Plan. The Seacoast Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) has established the need for the Newington-Dover Turnpike improvements as a top long-term priority.
The purpose of this project is to improve transportation efficiency and reduce safety problems, while minimizing social, economic, and environmental impacts, for an approximate 3.5-mile section of the Spaulding Turnpike extending north from the Gosling Road / Pease Boulevard Interchange (Exit 1) in the Town of Newington, across the Little Bay Bridges, to a point just south of the existing toll facility in the City of Dover. The Selected Alternative includes implementing transportation system management (TSM) improvements, reusing the General Sullivan Bridge for recreational use, provisions for future rail service, improving bus transit service, and instituting other transportation demand management (TDM) strategies that may reduce vehicle trips along the Spaulding Turnpike will be considered, in addition to upgrading the mainline, Little Bay Bridges, and interchanges.
The Spaulding Turnpike is eastern New Hampshire's major limited access north-south highway, serving as a gateway linking the Seacoast Region with Concord, the eastern portion of the Lakes Region, and the White Mountains. The Turnpike is also part of the National Highway System (NHS) reflecting its significance as an important transportation link in the State and regional system. Functionally classified as a principal arterial, it is a major commuter route which ties the growing residential areas of Dover-Somersworth-Rochester with the industrial and regional commercial centers in Newington, Portsmouth, and northern Massachusetts. It serves as the major artery for freight into and out of the areas north of the Little Bay Bridges, and is the economic lifeline of the region. It also serves as a major tourist route, providing access to the northern reaches of the state from the seacoast and points south of New Hampshire. Improvements to the Spaulding Turnpike are needed because:
- Traffic volumes on the Little Bay Bridges have steadily increased from approximately 30,000 vehicles per day in 1980 to almost 70,000 vehicles per day in 2001 resulting in high levels of congestion on the bridges and along the Turnpike near and within the interchange areas. The 2025 forecasted average daily traffic volume is expected to increase to approximately 94,000 vehicles per day.
- During weekday and weekend peak hours of the day, the Turnpike currently operates at unacceptable levels of service (LOS F) with motorists experiencing severe congestion and long delays within this segment of the corridor.
- The Turnpike has a number of existing geometric deficiencies including limited sight distance and substandard shoulder width on the Little Bay Bridges and substandard merge, diverge, and weave areas at the interchanges. Many of the traffic maneuvers required to enter, exit or change lanes along this section of the Turnpike contribute to driver discomfort and accidents.
- Existing acceleration, deceleration and weaving sections along the Turnpike are inadequate by current design standards. Historic accident data indicate that the frequency of crashes continues to increase, raising concerns about motorist safety. These crashes create long delays in an area where no viable alternate routes exist.
- Local connectivity for motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists from one side of the Turnpike to the other is deficient. This section of the Turnpike bisects the residential and recreational areas in Dover, and the residential and commercial/industrial areas in Newington resulting in an inefficient and circuitous use of the Turnpike by people desiring to travel east-west and vice versa.