New Hampshire plan would divert toll money

| 6/11/2009

Toll revenue could be siphoned away for other uses if the governor and state Senate lawmakers get their way in the New Hampshire transportation budget.

Highway users are against such diversions. Look no further than nearby Massachusetts, where toll payers have filed a lawsuit demanding their money back, which was diverted to the Big Dig.

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch, like many other governors around the country, is on the lookout for ways to increase transportation revenue.

In addition to a proposed toll increase, Lynch is calling for the “aggregation” of roadways, which would lump toll roads and non-tolled roads together in the budget. They are currently separate.

Truckers see aggregation of turnpikes and state roads as just another way to divert money from its intended purpose.

“What they’re doing is raising the cost of doing business and diverting the money away from the source of revenue,” OOIDA Director of Legislative Affairs Mike Joyce told Land Line.

“They’re just moving money from one pot to the next, and they’re coming up with all these terms like aggregation to sell their plan. It’s all marketing. Their perception is not reality. It is bad policy.”

State Rep. Candace Bouchard, D-Concord, chair of the House Public Works and Highways Committee, thinks so, too. She aired her concerns in a letter to the committee in May. By early June, the 19-member committee had taken a unanimous stance against the aggregation proposal.

“Tolls were raised just 18 months ago, and tolls remain a fair way to fund the 93 mile long Turnpike system,” Bouchard stated in the letter.

“However, when you begin diverting that toll money away from the Turnpike, and use it to fund maintenance on state roads elsewhere, fairness is discarded.”

Road aggregation is not the only revenue idea being floated by the governor, who would increase vehicle registration fees; add a $10 surcharge to driver licenses and a $15 surcharge on vanity plates; raise fuel taxes; and eliminate a 30-percent E-ZPass discount for passenger vehicles. Transponder discounts would remain intact for commercial vehicles.

– By David Tanner, staff writer