Should New Hampshire build new tolls?
By: LFDA Editor
Significant shortfalls in two of the state's larger transportation projects could lead to increased tolls.
On July 12, 2013, Department of Transportation Commissioner Christopher Clement said there won't be enough revenue from tolls in the Spaulding Turnpike fund to finish the current $260 million project to widen the roadway between Exit 1 in Portsmouth and the Dover tolls.
The lack of about $80 million could jeapardize the Dover end of the project, which includes widening the current four-lane road into eight-lanes, the remaking of Exit 6, the installation of soundwalls along a residential area of the road, and the creation of a roundabout on Route 4, replacing a traffic light at the intersection with Spur Road and Dover Point Road.
Clement said the two options to fund the rest of the project are a toll hike or a "pay-go" method of doing pieces of the remaining contracts as funds become available.
Concerns with a reported $1.3 billion revenue shortfall in the state's 10-year transportation plan have similarly spurred the call for new tolls along I-93.
Meanwhile, there's a battle to remove tolls along the Everett Turnpike in Merrimack.
Tolls at exit 10,11 and 12 were constructed in 1989 as part of a deal that brought the the city of Merrimack nearly $50 million of road improvements related to industrial development. $22 million in long-term bonds still needs to be paid off for the Merrimack upgrades between now and 2022, reports the Nashua Telegraph. Merrimack residents argue that the Everett Turnpike tolls are unfair since other communities have not paid for infrastructure improvements with tolls.
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.
Rep. Harry Young (D-Jaffrey) and eight other legislators have requested a 2014 bill to study revenue alternatives to the road toll for the funding of the state's highways and bridges.
Rep. Candace Bouchard (D-Concord), Rep. John Graham (R-Bedford), Sen. David Watters (D-Dover), and Sen. Nancy Stiles (R-Hampton) have requested a 2014 bill "relative to the road toll for alternative fuels." The details of that bill are not yet public.
HB 257 called for the removal of tolls at Exit 12. It was rejected by the House in March. A similar bill - SB 3 - passed the Senate but was retained in committee in the House. A final attempt to remove the tolls at Exit 12 was added to SB 19 in conference committee, but it was quickly rejected.
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 would provide discounts for E-Z Pass users and eliminate charges for drivers who uses the tolls more than 16 times. This bill was referred for interim study.