Everyone can agree: we need to grow and build up our state’s economy. But one of the greatest economic threats facing New Hampshire today is not necessarily top of mind to many Granite Staters: our aging, crumbling transportation infrastructure.
In New Hampshire, a very modest 4-cent gas tax increase is being debated in the State House in an effort to address our infrastructure needs. We haven’t had an increase in the gas tax in 23 years and the sad reality is that roads and bridges simply do not get repaired without funding.
Those who are against the small tax increase say we don’t need it. If New Hampshire is to fully recover economically and compete nationally, we need to address our roads and bridges…now.
The funds from this increase alone will be putting people to work, as it will be spent directly, and only, on repairing municipal roads and bridges, state roads and bridges, and the expansion of the main artery into New Hampshire.
We forget that the United States became an economic superpower due, in large part, to investment in infrastructure projects. New Hampshire also owes its economic success in large part to infrastructure development: Pease Development Authority, Manchester Airport and their new access road, the beginning stage of the I-93 expansion, and the Route 101 corridor.
However, I-93 expansion has slowed to a crawl and other projects are on hold because the state lacks funding.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers who published a state by state ranking at InfrstructureReportCard.org, a full third (33%) of all New Hampshire bridges are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
Our roadways fare even worse. 54% of New Hampshire’s roads are in poor or mediocre condition. In fact, driving on roads in need of repair costs New Hampshire motorists $267 million a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs. That translates to $259.00 per motorist. The frost heave dominated roads get worse and worse by the year and everyone has a story to tell especially after this year’s brutal winter.
Granite State travelers live this every day – they know that I-93 is too congested and that dilapidated bridges, such as the Vilas Bridge connecting Vermont to New Hampshire, are dangerous.
51% of New Hampshire’s major highways are congested. Why? Because vehicle travel on New Hampshire’s highways increased by 31% from 1990-2012.
The condition of New Hampshire’s roads and bridges needlessly puts our neighbors in harm’s way, hurts our businesses, makes us less competitive and costs the state jobs. That’s why we have joined with the BIA (State’s Chamber of Commerce), and the Nashua and Manchester Chambers of Commerce, to support this modest gas tax increase.
Some shortsighted individuals will claim that we cannot afford to invest in New Hampshire’s infrastructure. The truth is, we can’t afford not to. This small 4-cent gas tax investment in our infrastructure will immediately increase our state’s economic competitiveness and improve the lives of Granite Staters.
If we don’t act now, our roads and bridges will continue to deteriorate and a real opportunity to restore New Hampshire’s economy will be lost. We deserve better.
(Joseph M. Ducharme, Jr. is President of American Council of Engineering Companies of NH. Gary Abbott is the Executive Vice President of the Associated General Contractors of NH.)