New Hampshire court: Highway money has to be used on highways

| 4/26/2004

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has ruled that fuel tax money collected in the state cannot be used for commuter rail projects, according to court documents.

The ruling was part of a case involving a commuter rail project the state is building in the Nashua area. The Nashua Regional Planning Commission is partnering with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation and the city of Nashua to develop the project, which would carry commuters from Nashua to Boston via Lowell, MA.

The project would extend the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority commuter service that now terminates in Lowell.

According to The Associated Press, supporters of the rail project had contended that railroads were a form of public highway, and therefore the state could use highway funds to aid construction of the project.

The New Hampshire Motor Transport Association sued to prevent the use of highway funds, and the court agreed.

In an April 19 decision, the court said that documents and evidence in the case that the state’s laws were intended “to prevent motor vehicle fees and taxes from being siphoned away from highway uses.”

It is clear, the court said, that the purpose of Article 6 of the state’s Constitution “was to protect funds raised from fees associated with automobile ownership and use from being diverted to purposes not directly benefiting those who paid the fees.”