N.H. Sen. Shaheen calls for long term highway funding legislation

If Congress fails to pass long term federal highway funding legislation, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation may have to delay future transportation projects.

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., called for long term authorization of the federal Highway Trust Fund during a recent visit to Otter Brook Bridge. Otter Brook is one of 775 bridges that are either structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. Thirty-seven percent of the state’s roads are rated as being in poor condition, as well, according to a news release.

New Hampshire DOT spokesman Bill Boynton said the 83-year-old bridge is traveled by about 7,000 vehicles daily. “The project will cost approximately $7.1 million,” Boynton said in a written statement to TI News Daily.

The project calls for a total bridge replacement along with associated roadway improvements. Boynton said even though the bridge is in poor condition, bus and truck traffic has never been given limited access to the bridge.

Otter Brook Bridge is currently No. 51 on the New Hampshire DOT 2015 bridge priority list. One of the reasons the bridge has been red-listed is because it was severely damaged in 2005 and 2012 when floodwaters eroded the ground around the abutment, destabilizing it.

Boynton said DOT has not yet made definite decisions on canceling or postponing projects. “But with federal funding (challenges) all projects are potentially impacted.”

The state has a 10-year capital improvement plan that is revised every two years, he said. Other projects in the plan include  improvements to the central New Hampshire turnpike; the Hooksett Ramp toll reconstruction project, which calls for the reconstruction of an exit ramp to implement all electronic tolling; and replacement of the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge between Portsmouth, N.H., and Kittery, Me.

Congress has patched the Highway Trust Fund for about the last eight years. The most recent extension expires at the end of July. This lack of funding has affected planning projects for cities, counties and states across the country, and New Hampshire is no different.

Boynton said if Congress patches the Highway Trust Fund again, “New Hampshire DOT may have to defer advertising for projects.”