New Hampshire bills targeting toll rates are rejected

| 2/11/2008

A handful of bills offered in the New Hampshire statehouse that would have affected toll rates and how they are used to benefit roads in the state will have to wait until next year.

Toll rates are getting a lot of attention at the capitol following the recent increase in fees along the state’s 93 miles of toll roads. The New Hampshire Executive Council voted last fall to raise tolls for trucks and passenger vehicles effective Oct. 22, 2007.

Truck tolls that were $2 or $3 depending on the interchange on the Central Turnpike, Blue Star Turnpike or Spaulding Turnpike are now 25 cents more per axle. Passenger-vehicle tolls increased from 75 cents to $1 on Interstate 93 and the Everett Turnpike, and from $1 to $1.50 on Interstate 95.

Holders of E-ZPass accounts continue to receive a 30 percent discount.

Since the toll increases were announced, many residents in the state have been outspoken about their displeasure with the Executive Council’s decision.

In an effort to make it more difficult for the council to boost toll rates, Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, R-Manchester, offered a bill that would require legislative approval for a change in highway tolls for the New Hampshire turnpike system. Lawmakers could either increase or decrease rates.

The bill – HB1606 – however, was rejected in committee on a 14-0 vote. It also would have required turnpike toll rates to return to the level that existed on Jan. 1, 2005.

According to a fiscal analysis on the bill, it would result in the state turnpike fund losing about $23.5 million annually during the next four years.

A similar effort offered by Rep. Andrew Renzullo, R-Hudson, was referred to a study committee. It would require legislative approval for changes in highway tolls. The measure – HB1365 – also would return turnpike toll rates to the level that existed prior to Oct. 22.

Another bill would have required toll revenues to be spent on highways and bridges. Sponsored by Rep. Joel Winters, D-Manchester, the legislation – HB1592 – would have specified that at least 75 percent of toll revenues be used for construction and repairs. A maximum of 25 percent would have been spent on trooper patrols. In 2012, the distribution would have changed to 90 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

Winters’ bill was rejected in committee on a 14-0 vote.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Hampshire in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor