Should New Hampshire build new tolls?
By: LFDA Editor
Less than a year after New Hampshire Department of Transportation Commissioner Christopher Clement announced plans to ask the governor and Executive Council for a toll increase (fall 2012), both the House and Senate entertained bills to actually eliminate certain tolls on the Everett Turnpike.
The state reportedly faced a $1.3 billion revenue shortfall in its 10-year transportation plan, spurring the call for new tolls, but the idea stalled in committee in 2012. This year, however, lawmakers introduced nearly identical bills to eliminate the tolls at Everett Turnpike Exit 12 in the town of Merrimack. The House version was rejected in mid-March, but the Senate version cleared that chamber and was sent to the House in early April.
Opponents of new tolls often argue that drivers will divert from the highway, clogging local roads. Opponents have also argued that new tolls would discourage tourism to New Hampshire. Supporters of new tolls, however, argue the money is crucial to fund bridge repairs, road maintenance and other needs.
HB 257 called for the removal of tolls at Exit 12 of the Everett Turnpike (Merrimack), but the House rejected that on March 13. However, on March 14 the Senate passed the similar SB3 and that bill went to the House Public Works and Highway Committee on April 3.
The House Public Works and Highways Committee addressed three bills related to tolls in 2012:
HB 1369 would authorize the installation of an open road tolling plaza in the vicinity of Exit 10. This bill was referred for study.
HB 1257 would have eliminated all tolls in the town of Merrimack. This bill was deemed inexpedient to legislate.
HB 1192 provided for discounts for E-Z Pass users and eliminates charges for drivers who uses the tolls more than 16 times. This bill was referred for interim study.
Raymond J. Wieczorek Drive - the new access road linking Everett Turnpike to Manchester Airport - will cost the state some $5 million annually in toll revenue. The road allows allow travelers and commuters to bypass the Bedford toll plaza. An engineering firm contracted by the state also proposed several plans to reconfigure the set-up. Click here to read the Everett Turnpike Tolling Study.