News & Updates


NH Senate OKs Nearly $37 Million for Infrastructure Funding (March 15, 2017)
The Senate has passed legislation that would provide nearly $37 million to cities and towns for road and bridge repairs. The bill, Senate Bill 38, passed unanimously. NHPR quoted Senator Lou D'Allesandro as saying, "Meeting our commitment on infrastructure needs with surplus funds in fiscal year 2017 is the right thing to do."

On his website, Governor Chris Sununu showed support for the legislation. "As I said in my budget address, in setting aside an Infrastructure Revitalization Fund, we are making local needs a priority and providing a vehicle to get important projects done. In no area is this more important than with roads and bridges. Today’s legislation will dedicate more than $38 million to spend on municipal roads and bridges. This is not money dedicated to the needs and wishes of state government, but rather resources directed through existing formulas to directly help local taxpayers. I’m proud to stand with the legislature and make a real difference for local communities.”

NH DOT Joins Coalition to Drive Toward Zero Motor Vehicle Deaths
New Hampshire's Department of Transportation (DOT) has partnered with several public and private state organizations to eliminate driving deaths in the state. Eliminating deaths on New Hampshire roadways is an important vision and the driving force behind the work of the New Hampshire Driving Toward Zero Deaths (NHDTZD) Coalition. It is also an important vision for all who travel on travel New Hampshire's roadways-by car, motorcycle, truck, bicycle, or even on foot-day and night under all types of weather conditions.

The NHDTZD's mission is to create a safety culture where even one roadway fatality is one too many. Zero fatalities is the only acceptable number and of course, the only number we can ALL LIVE with.

The New Hampshire Driving Toward Zero Deaths Program aligns with the Toward Zero Deaths: A National Strategy on Highway Safety program that began in 2009 as a data-driven effort focusing on identifying and creating opportunities for changing American culture as it relates to highway safety.

The coalition has an interactive website featuring a map that highlights recent accidents in the state, and information on the major issues involving driving deaths such as speeding, distracted driving, impairment, and more. Go to
http://www.nhtmc.com/dashboard/safety to visit the coalition's website.

New Hampshire Has Third Highest Increase in Motor Vehicle Deaths in U.S. (September 2016)
The National Safety Council recently released a report on motor vehicle fatalities between January and June of 2016. The report showed a 9% increase nationally from the corresponding period in 2015. The January through June 2016 figure was up 18% from the 2014 figure. This increase was attributed to effects of low gas prices, which produced a 3% increase in cumulative vehicle mileage through May.

The report also showed New Hampshire having a 61% increase in deaths between January and June, the third highest in the country. However, safety experts warn against reading too far into the large increase, as NH has unique factors in these numbers that go beyond the economic trends. In a recent article by the Union Leader, experts explained that the most common cause of traffic fatalities is alcohol or drug impairment followed by distracted driving and excessive speed. It should also be noted that New Hampshire is the only state in the country that does not have an adult seatbelt law. In more than two-thirds of the fatal accidents in 2016, victims were not wearing seatbelts. To top it off, an unseasonably warm winter increased the amount of drivers on the road this year with less snowbanks to "cushion" vehicles veering off the road.

While many of New Hampshire's accidents occur on interstates, state roads with high speed limits and two-way traffic are even more dangerous for drivers. The installation of rumble strips and concrete barriers as well as cracking down on distracted driving through the state's hands-free law are ways the NHDOT and local law enforcement are trying to prevent accidents on these kinds of roads.

The only states with a higher increase in motor vehicle deaths than New Hampshire were Oregon (70%) and Vermont (82%).

The National Safety Council's report on motor vehicle fatalities can be found in full here:
http://www.nsc.org/NewsDocuments/2016/6%20month%20fatality%20estimates.pdf

U.S. Interstate Highway System Turns 60 Years Old Amid Increased Travel, Rising Congestion; Surging Travel & Insufficient Funding Needed to Make Improvements. Interstate System Continues to Save Lives, Time, and Money While Easing Personal & Commercial Mobility (TRIP, June 27, 2016)
Washington, DC – As the U.S. Interstate Highway System turns 60 years old this week, it faces increasing congestion, unprecedented levels of travel – particularly by large trucks – and insufficient funding to make needed repairs and improvements.  The nation’s most critical transportation link continues to save lives with its enhanced safety features and is largely well-preserved, but an aging Interstate system will increasingly require more long-term, costly repairs, according to a new report released today by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation organization.

The TRIP report, “
The Interstate Highway System Turns 60: Challenges to Its Ability to Continue to Save Lives, Time and Money” finds that while the Interstate Highway System represents only 2.5 percent of lane miles in the U.S., it carries 25 percent of the nation’s vehicle travel. The system is increasingly congested, with truck travel growing at a rate twice that of overall Interstate travel. And, while the nation’s Interstates tend to be in better condition than other roads and bridges, the aging system lacks the required funding for needed improvements and repairs.

“Drivers are frustrated with the condition of the nation’s transportation system,” said Jill Ingrassia, AAA’s managing director of government relations and traffic safety advocacy. “While a record 36 million travelers plan to hit the road for Independence Day weekend, nearly 70 percent are concerned that roads and bridges are not in great driving condition. AAA urges lawmakers to keep their eye on the ball to identify a sustainable funding source to maintain and improve our Interstate system for the future.”
The current backlog of needed improvements to the Interstate Highway System, as estimated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, is $189 billion. The nation’s current transportation investment is less than two-thirds (61 percent) of the amount needed to keep Interstates in good condition and make the improvements necessary to meet the nation’s growing need for personal and commercial mobility. And, while the recently enacted federal surface transportation program, the
Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST Act) provides a modest increase in spending, it lacks a long-term, sustainable revenue source. By 2020 the shortfall into the nation’s Highway Trust Fund will be $16 billion annually.

“The United States moves in large part thanks to the efforts of many elected officials, organizations and citizens whose shared foresight led
to the construction of the national interstate system,” said Bud Wright, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. “Now, as we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Interstate act, it’s clear that our investments in preserving the system are not keeping up even as our nation continues to grow.”

Since 2000, travel on the Interstate system is increasing two times faster than new lane capacity is being added. As a result, 43 percent of urban Interstate highways are considered congested during peak hours and the average annual amount of travel per Interstate lane mile increased by 11 percent from 2000 to 2014. Travel by combination trucks on the Interstate increased by 29 percent from 2000 to 2014, more than double the 14 percent rate of growth for all Interstate vehicle travel during the same period.

“It's hard to believe it's been 60 years since the Interstate Highway System was developed,” said Ed Mortimer, executive director for transportation infrastructure at the United States Chamber of Commerce. “The vision of President Eisenhower has enabled economic mobility throughout our nation and showed we can accomplish big things.  As we work to maintain, and in many cases rebuild this great system, let's continue to think big as we work to fund and finance an improved, smarter network.”
Travel on the nation’s Interstate highways has surged since 2014.  In 2015 vehicle miles of travel on the Interstate Highway System was four percent higher than in 2014 and through the first three months of 2016 travel on the Interstate Highway System was five percent higher than during the first three months of 2015. 

The design of the Interstate – which includes a separation from other roads and rail lines, a minimum of four lanes, paved shoulders and median barriers – makes it more than twice as safe to travel on as all other roadways. The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles of travel on the Interstate in 2014 was 0.54, compared to 1.26 on non-Interstate routes. TRIP estimates that the Interstate Highway System saved 5,359 lives in 2014, based on an estimate of the number of additional fatalities that would have occurred had Interstate traffic been carried by other major roadways, which often lack the safety features common to Interstate routes.

While the condition of Interstate pavement and bridges is acceptable, some deficiencies exist. Twelve percent of Interstate highways are in poor or mediocre condition. Three percent of Interstate bridges are structurally deficient and an additional 18 percent are functionally obsolete. Structurally deficient bridges have significant deterioration of the major components of the bridge, while functionally obsolete bridges no longer meet modern design standards, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment.

“The long-term vision that helped establish the current Interstate system 60 years ago is needed again today,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “In order to maintain personal and commercial mobility, transportation investment and a sustainable, long-term funding source for the federal surface transportation program must remain a priority.”

America's Rural Roads & Bridges Have Significant Deficiencies & High Fatality Rates; Repairs & Modernization Needed to Improve Conditions, Boost Safety & Support Economic Growth (TRIP, May 19, 2015)
Eds: This report contains data for all 50 states for rural fatality rates, the number of rural fatalities, the percentage of rural roads in poor condition and the percent of deficient rural bridges.

Washington, D.C. - America’s rural heartland is home to nearly 50 million people, and its natural resources provide the energy, food and fiber that support the nation’s economy and way of life. But a new report finds that the nation’s rural transportation system, which is critical to the nation’s booming agriculture, energy and tourism sectors, is in need of modernization to address deficient roads and bridges, high crash rates and inadequate connectivity and capacity. The report, “Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland,” was released today by TRIP, a national non-profit transportation research group based in Washington, D.C. It defines Rural America as counties that lack an urban area of at least 50,000 in population or lack a large commuting flow to an urban county.

The report found that rural roads and bridges in New Hampshire have significant deficiencies. In 2012, 18 percent of New Hampshire’s major rural roads were rated in poor condition, the 17th highest rate nationally. In 2013, 15 percent of New Hampshire’s rural bridges were rated as structurally deficient, the 12th highest rate nationally.

“Year after year, this study demonstrates the direct correlation between the condition of NH roads and the costs to the motoring public. It underscores the importance of investing in our State’s infrastructure,” said Rep. David B. Campbell, Chairman, House Public Works & Highways Committee. “All New Hampshire drivers have to pay the increasing repair costs associated with poor road conditions. The costs of properly funding New Hampshire roads and bridges are shared by out-of state visitors, and will in the long run save New Hampshire drivers (who are also New Hampshire taxpayers) millions of dollars.”

"Infrastructure is the main catalyst of our state's economy," says Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "It provides the connectivity for jobs, the workforce to get to those jobs and for the economic engine that is tourism. If we neglect that engine, it breaks down. We cannot expect visitors to navigate roads in serious disrepair and ever come back again."

The TRIP report also found that traffic crashes and fatalities on rural roads in New Hampshire are significantly higher than all other roads in the state. In 2012, non-Interstate rural roads in New Hampshire had a traffic fatality rate of 1.16 deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles of travel, compared to a fatality rate on all other roads in New Hampshire of 0.66 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles of travel.

“More than 46 million Americans live in rural and less densely populated areas of the country where their primary mode of transportation is a personal vehicle,” stated Kathleen Bower, AAA Vice President, Public Affairs. “Motorists expect and deserve safe, well maintained roads and bridges no matter if they are traveling on the Interstates or rural roads. Congress must act quickly to provide a sustainable solution for the federal Highway Trust Fund to ensure that states can continue to make necessary infrastructure investments that will benefit all travelers.”

The average travel per-lane mile by large trucks on major, non-arterial rural roads in the U.S. has increased by 16 percent from 2000 to 2012.

“America’s rural transportation system is an integral component to the success and quality of life for U.S. farmers and ranchers,” said Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “Adequate roads and bridges are necessary to deliver our agricultural bounty to markets at home and abroad. As we see additional growth and opportunities in rural America, we must work together to take advantage of those opportunities and to ensure that infrastructure supports and enhances our rural communities.”
The federal surface transportation program is a critical source of funding for rural roads. But a lack of adequate funding of the federal program may result in a significant cut in federal funding for the country’s roads, highways and bridges. The impact of inadequate federal surface transportation revenues could be felt as early as this summer, when the balance in the
Highway Account of the federal Highway Trust Fund is expected to drop below $1 billion, which will trigger delays in the federal reimbursement to states for road, highway and bridge projects, which would likely result in states delaying numerous projects.

“So many of our industry’s manufacturing facilities and their workers are located in rural America, where they depend on safe and efficient roads for their livelihoods,” said Rick Patek, group president of Astec Industries and 2014 chairman of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM).

“As Congress weighs how to extend the Highway Trust Fund, they would be well-advised to read this report and consider the effects of their actions on rural roads.”
Nationwide federal funding for highways is expected to be cut by almost 100 percent from the current investment level for the fiscal year starting October 1, 2014 (FY 2015) unless Congress provides additional transportation revenues. This is due to a cash shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund as projected by the
Congressional Budget Office. In New Hampshire, this could mean a cut of $169 million for highway and transit improvements if a lack of adequate revenue into the Federal Highway Trust Fund is not addressed by Congress.

The TRIP report finds that the U.S. needs to adopt transportation policies that will improve rural transportation connectivity, safety and conditions to provide the nation’s small communities and rural areas with safe and efficient access to support quality of life and enhance economic productivity. To accomplish this, the report recommends modernizing and extending key routes to accommodate personal and commercial travel, implementing needed roadway safety improvements, improving public transit access to rural areas, and adequately funding the preservation and maintenance of rural transportation assets.

“The safety and quality of life in America’s small communities and rural areas and the health of the nation’s economy ride on our rural transportation system,” said Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP. “This backbone of the heartland allows mobility and connectivity for millions of rural Americans. The nation’s rural roads provide crucial links from farm to market, move manufactured and energy products
, and provide access to countless tourist and recreational destinations. But, with long-term federal transportation legislation stuck in political gridlock in Washington, America’s rural communities and economies could face even higher unemployment and decline. Funding the modernization of our rural transportation system will create jobs and help ensure long-term economic development and quality of life in rural America.”

Safer Roads Released Publication on Reasons to Raise NH Road Toll - Legislature Agrees and Governor signs Senate Bill 367 (May 2014)
Governor Maggie Hassan signed Senate Bill 367 on May 20th on one of the newly renovated bridges on I-93. This additional funding will now allow I-93 to be completed within the original permit time frame. The increase in the NH Road Toll of 4.2 cents will bring the total NH rate to 22.2 cents - still the lowest in New England. This legislation will raise $32 million per year to fix NH roads & bridges.

Safer Roads released a publication regarding Senate Bill 367 in February. Sponsored by Senator Jim Rausch, the bill aimed to bring in revenues of up to $31,883,783. Local municipalities would receive 12% of these funds - a total of $3.8 million.

As this bill progressed through the Senate, amendments were made to direct all the new revenue to much needed highway projects. The legislation then moved to the House, which passed the legislation. Governor Maggie Hassan then signed the bill into law (see photo above).

To download a copy of Safer Roads' publication on the original filed road toll legislation,
Click Here.

This legislation is a step in the right direction to fixing our roads and bridges, but it still falls short of meeting all the state's needs. In 2013, the NH Department of Transportation showed that in order for the state to keep up with maintenance of our roads and bridges, approximately $90 million is needed. This legislation bring us only one-third of the way. Now it will be up to future legislators to find the remaining revenue necessary to bring our state's roads and bridges up to par.

The Truth About the Road Toll/Gas Tax
While the controversy over the NH road toll/gas tax heats up during the approaching elections and the federal highway trust fund deficit looms over Washington, some misinformation is being spread regarding the issue of highway funding. Here are a few pointers to help clarify apprehension surrounding the state road toll/gas tax increase.

Myth #1: A 4.2-cent increase is too high.
Fact: Even with the 4.2-cent increase, NH still has the least expensive fuel sub-charge in New England. The breakdown of total state gas taxes for each state, including the state tax and other fees, are as follows:

Connecticut
49.30 cents
Rhode Island
33 cents
Vermont
32.95 cents
Maine
30.01 cents
Massachusetts
26.50 cents
New Hampshire
23.83 cents
*API as of July 1, 2014

Myth #2: 
The 4.2-cent State gas tax increase will mean skyrocketing gas prices. Fact: On June 1, 2014 the average price of a gallon on gas in Concord, New Hampshire was $3.63.  On August 15, 2014 it was $3.50.  Gas prices are affected by a number of factors, including supply and demand, world events, natural disasters, production levels, and state and federal taxes, which in New Hampshire make up less than 15% of the total cost to fill your tank.  

Myth #3:
There is already more than enough money going toward roads and highways.
Fact: Gasoline prices have risen over 300%; asphalt, cement, steel, and road salt have risen 300-400%. Due to inflation and stagnant revenues since 1993—the last time the tax was increased—only one-third the amount of roads and bridges can be repaired with at that previous rate of tax revenue.

Myth #4:
Increased revenue won’t go directly to toward fixing roads and highways.
Fact: 100% of the revenue from the increase will go toward deteriorating state and municipal roads and bridges, as well as the completion of the I-93 widening. Moreover, the road toll revenue is constitutionally protected and cannot be diverted for other purposes.

Myth #5:
The State gas tax increase will allow the NHDOT to address all of New Hampshire’s bad roads and bridges. Fact: The additional $32 million a year will certainly help, allowing for an extra 200 miles of paving work for two years, expedited local bridge repair/replacement projects, and helping to fund the completion of the expansion of I-93. It costs approximately $1 million a mile to rehabilitate a road in “poor” condition. There are 1,600 miles of “poor” roads in New Hampshire – that’s a $1.6 Billon problem. Replacing the State’s #1 “Red List” bridge, the Sarah Long Bridge in Portsmouth-Kittery, will carry an $80 million price tag for New Hampshire.

Myth #6: The extension of the Federal transportation funding law to next May by Congress solves the threat of a funding crisis for States. Fact: While solving an immediate cash flow reimbursement problem, the short-term fix does not provide funding beyond New Hampshire’s current construction contractual obligations and debt service associated with past construction projects. For this reason, there will be a continued negative impact on the NHDOT’s advertising schedule associated with new projects. Large, multi-year projects scheduled for advertising this fall are currently under review and may be impacted.

While making your decisions this election year, remember to stay educated on the issue of highway funding. Be active in the political process—take the time to speak directly to your candidates to make sure they have all the facts.

Administration Announces New Infrastructure Initiative
On July 17th, President Obama announced a new executive action to create the Build America Investment Initiative, a government-wide initiative to increase infrastructure investment and economic growth. As part of the initiative, the administration is launching the Build America Transportation Investment Center – housed at the Department of Transportation – to serve cities and states seeking to use innovative financing and partnerships with the private sector to support transportation infrastructure. 

In addition, the president will be launching an interagency working group, chaired by Transportation Secretary Foxx and Treasury Secretary Lew to coordinate a focused review of federal infrastructure policies. The working group will report back within 120 days with recommendations for additional executive actions to support private investment in other areas of infrastructure and to grow the pipeline of infrastructure projects.

On August 6, 2014, Secretary Foxx hosted a virtual National Town Hall discussion on the need for a long-term transportation bill that invests today in tomorrow's infrastructure. During the event, moderated by US DOT Chief of Staff Sarah Feinberg and joined by more than 3,000 people from coast to coast, he responded to participants' questions submitted through the event website, email, and social media.

In the session, viewers questioned Secretary Foxx about how the workforce would be affected, what kinds of projects would be benefited from the initiative, and how this would influence the lives of citizens. Foxx explained that the number one concern is the slowing down of building and reconstruction across the country due to the lack of funds. He went on to recognize how workers get “locked out” of job opportunities when projects stall and when there is no reliable means of transportation. The Secretary claimed that the Build America Initiative is a long-term bill, meant to improve, simplify, and speed up the permitting process.

A fact sheet on the initiative can be found at:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/07/17/fact-sheet-building-21st-century-infrastructure-increasing-public-and-pr. Video for the Q&A session can be viewed at: http://www.dot.gov/policy-initiatives/grow-america/national-grow-america-town-hall.

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