Cuts could be coming to New Hampshire’s 10-year road plan

| 8/1/2007

New Hampshire doesn’t have enough money rolling in to fulfill promises of the state’s 10-year highway plan, according to the state’s top transportation official.

State Transportation Commissioner Charles O’Leary told the governor’s advisory committee on transportation that projects need to be postponed or outright eliminated from the state’s long-term list of road work. He recommended cutting one-quarter of the projects from the $4.1 billion plan, The Associated Press reported.

Among the projects O’Leary tabbed for possible removal are widening a section of Interstate 93 between Manchester and Londonderry, expanding the Everett Turnpike in Merrimack and expanding the Spaulding Turnpike in Rochester.

O’Leary cited a drop in federal highway funds of 30 percent during the next couple years. To make matters worse, construction costs have increased by 45 percent during the past three years and federal money has been diverted to projects on turnpikes, which should rely on tolls for funding.

Possible solutions offered by councilors to save some projects included boosting the rate of tax collected on fuel and turnpike tolls.

O’Leary also said it would take 35 years to complete all the work included in the state’s 10-year plan. He recommended extending it into a 22-year plan.

The committee is expected to meet this fall to discuss the plan. By the end of the year, councilors will submit their recommendations to Gov. John Lynch, who will offer a plan to the Legislature when they convene their regular session in January.

One option that isn’t expected to be included in plan to help pay for needed work is a fuel tax increase. Lynch is opposed to that idea. He said it is too early to discuss tolls, The AP reported.