March 7 - Claremont Included in Ten Year Transportation Improvement Plan

This article appeared in the E-Ticker News March 7, 2014

NH House Happenings

By Rep. John Cloutier

Claremont Included In 10-Year Transportation Improvement Plan

New Hampshireʼs House of Representatives has now entered the second half of its 2014
Regular Session, after the end of which is commonly known as “Crossover Day,” which occurred this year on March 27. 

Consequently, the House will now review all legislation sent to it by the New Hampshire Senate, while the Senate will do the same with all legislation passed over to it from the House. According to the Office of Legislative Services, the House will examine 177 pieces of Senate legislation, and the Senate will consider 280 pieces of House legislation.

There was no meeting of the full House last week, none is scheduled for this week. But House standing committees, including my Public Works & Highways Committee, are presently holding public hearings and related meetings on legislation on which we must make some recommendations to the full House by May 15, according to our joint rules with the Senate.

Frankly, with the pause in activity by the full House, Iʼve decided in this weekʼs as well as next weekʼs columns to write about some important and interesting legislation approved by us representatives during the 2014 Sessionʼs first half which Iʼve not had an opportunity to write about in previous columns.

First, there was House Bill 2014, approved by an overwhelming voice vote on March 25. This bill contains the biennial update to New Hampshireʼs 10-Year Transportation Improvement Plan which is the Houseʼs version of all transportation projects and priorities that our state should undertake between 2015-2024, their currently projected costs, and where the revenue would come from to pay for these projects and priorities. More specifically, the overall total costs would include $1.82 billion of federally-aided highway projects for our state, $448 million for airports, railroads, and mass transit agencies, $245 million for betterment of existing highways, as well as $127 million in state aid for municipal bridge and highway projects.

The updated 10-Year Plan, contained in House Bill 2014, was approved and sent to the Senate after the Public Works Committee recommended its approval by a 18-0 roll call vote. The committee, on which I have the privilege of serving as vice chair this term, spent sev- eral weeks in hearings and meetings examining as well as amending the billʼs original plan before agreeing on its unanimous, bipartisan recommendation.

Approval of the amended plan had followed the submission of its original version by Gov. Maggie Hassan to the House in Jan. 2014. Gov. Hassan had earlier received the plan in Dec. 2013 as recommended by GACIT, which stands for the Governorʼs Advisory Commission on Intermodal Transportation, and made few changes from GACITʼs version. GACIT consists of the five members of New Hampshireʼs Executive Council, who held public hearings all over the state in the Fall of 2013 seeking input in regard to the 10-Year Plan. I attended two of these hearings held last Sept. in Charlestown and Lebanon. This input included recommendations from each of the stateʼs regional planning commissions on suggested transportation improvement projects in each of their appropriate regions. Claremont is a member of the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission, which is headquartered in Lebanon.

House Bill 2014ʼs amended 10-Year Plan includes several changes and additions from GACITʼs version. First, it reallocates $1.2 million in annual state road guard rail replacement money to rehabilitation of secondary state roads spread among the stateʼs six regional highway districts. Second, it transfers federal highway funds from renumbering interstate exits to pave rural collector roads. Third, it allocates money for the 100 worst of the 140 state red-listed bridges, so as to begin to catch up on needed repair work. Fourth, it includes revenue for state bridge preservation work on an average of 25 pink-listed bridges per year over the the next 10 years so such bridges donʼt be- come red-listed. Fifth, it provides $78 million for New Hampshireʼs half share of the Sarah Long Bridge in Portsmouth with the other half being paid for by Maine. Sixth, it contributes $51 million to continue the widening of Interstate 93 in southern New Hampshire, though another $200 million is now estimated to be necessary in order to complete the widening of this major highway between Manchester and the Massachusetts Border.

Furthermore, House Bill 2014ʼs amended version of the 10-Year Plan would add more money to fix our crumbling roads and bridges all over the state, provided that Senate Bill 367 becomes law. This bill would raise the stateʼs road toll, popularly known as the “gas tax”, by 4.2 cents per gallon on both gas and diesel for 20 years. It passed the Senate on March 27, and is presently before the House. In fact, Senate Bill 367ʼs public hearing is scheduled for tomorrow, April 8, at 10:00 a.m. before a joint meeting of both the Public Works as well as Ways & Means Committees. More about Senate Bill 367 in future columns.

Claremont has three specific transportation projects currently in the Houseʼs amended version of the 10-Year Plan. They include the relocation of North Streetʼs intersection with Main Street, the actual construction of which is scheduled to begin in 2015 for a total price tag of $3.73 million. Second, there is the rehabilitation of the Route 12A Bridge over the Sugar River now scheduled for construction in 2022 at a total cost of $5.79 million. Finally, there is a total of $3.16 million proposed for preservation as well as expansion of Claremontʼs Municipal Airport, starting in 2020, provided that the state receives the necessary federal funds for such airport work.

Email: jocloutier@comcast.net

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