CONSERVATION LAW FOUNDATION STYMIES PUBLIC SAFETY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Elliot Schultz

MY TURN

Conservation Law Foundation StymiesPublic Safety

By Senator Bob Letourneau (R – Derry)

Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee

For the better part of a decade I’ve worked tirelessly on the I-93 widening project. It is my hope to bring relief to the escalating traffic and safety concerns for the people whom frequently travel I-93.

The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) has filed a federal lawsuit over the expansion plans to widen I-93. The Conservation Law Foundation brief cites a violation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and claim that backroom negotiations have taken place. The Conservation Law Foundation also points too the related environmental statutes that have been violated and are seeking an injunction to prevent the start of construction.

During my time on both the House of Representatives and the Senate Transportation Committees, I can say with certainty the Conservation Law Foundation has been involved in the I-93 widening project from the beginning. Their claim of being ostracized from the process is hogwash. The Conservation Law Foundation has also claimed that no sustainability evaluations were conducted with regard to air and water quality. But in fact, these issues were addressed by New Hampshire Department of Transportation, Commissioner Carol Murray, with the inclusion of light rail. In addition to Commissioner Murray’s rail plan, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has called New Hampshire’s I-93 environmental mitigation plan, “Innovative and generous.”

The stakeholders involved in the I-93 widening project met on a continued basis with the Conservation Law Foundation and others to try to incorporate their requests, which centered on a rail system. Two types of rail were considered, heavy and light, however heavy rail was not considered a viable option because of logistic problems. Light rail is the more accessible option, as it is characterized by, an electric rail system, which would operate at ground level at very short station intervals, but would prove to be redundant as a High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lane is included in the widening project for a bus service.

From this legislators’ perspective, this is clearly a project that has taken the important steps of balancing expansion needs and environmental stewardship. There is no question that the I-93 widening will serve the southern tier of New Hampshire all the way to the Massachusetts border in a beneficial manner.

This project is much needed and will overall improve the safety for the drivers and limit bottlenecks over the future. There are currently more than a dozen bridges on the red list in that corridor and are in desperate need of modernization, which the widening project would address. Job creation would also be greatly affected by the project, as a large labor force would be needed for the actual day-to-day work. The cost to the state of New Hampshire for the widening project is currently estimated at $480 million dollars; however the Conservation Law Foundation’s lawsuit is going to only increase the cost. Litigation alone could cost an exorbitant $480 million dollars, the exact amount that the widening project is slated to cost.

The legislature can not allow the Conservation Law Foundation to continue pushing the cost of the project ever higher. As Chairman of the Transportation Committee, I have many factors to consider, and the Conservation Law Foundation injunction would greatly impact the states’ economic vitality. The Conservation Law Foundation has had every opportunity to weigh in on the project and suddenly with their lawsuit have become deceitful and disingenuous and are gambling with the safety of everyone who travels I-93 in New Hampshire.

Senator Letourneau represents Senate District 19 which is comprised of Derry, Hampstead and Windham.

Elliot A. Schultz

NH State Senate Communications Director