WHILE SENATE DEMOCRATS ISSUE DOT BLANK CHECK
CONCORD, NH - - Today, Senate Democrats, on a partisan 14-10 vote, wrote the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (DOT) a blank check. An amendment to HB 754 authorized DOT to draw an unlimited amount of repair funds from the Betterment account for repairs to the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
By statute the Betterment account is a subsidiary of the Highway Fund and is established for the purpose of highway and bridge repairs in the local communities that are not eligible for federal aid. “The Governor of New Hampshire, John Lynch, has said that we need to stop using the Highway fund as an ATM machine,” started Senator Bob Odell (R-Lempster). The total bill for repair of the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge is $40,000,000.
“Senate Democrats think we should rob Peter to pay Paul,” began Republican leader Ted Gatsas (R-Manchester). Senate Republicans requested that a cap in the amount of $500,000 be placed on the withdrawal of betterment funds to get the project started while federal aid is pending. “We have sent the message back to the local communities who are expecting (betterment dollars) to fix their problems -- that there projects will be put on hold,” continued Gatsas.
The Sarah Mildred Long Bridge is a federal project and the cost is being shifted at the expense of municipal projects, “There is no doubt that bridge safety is vital to the economic prosperity of our state; however the need is equally important for bridges in the southern tier of the state as it is on the seacoast” concluded Senator Bob Clegg (R-Hudson).
Projects listed below are currently pending in the Betterment account but could possibly be on hold with the passage of HB 754 today:
- Loudon-Belmont: Paving, Intersection, Signal Work, $4.5m
- Wakefield: Intersection, $2.0m
- Enfield: Shoulder Work, $1.0m
- Bethlehem-Bartlett: Guardrail, $0.8m
- Milford: Signals, $0.3m
- Hopkinton: Bridge Rehabilitation, $1.5m
- Dover: Bridge Replacement, $4.0m
- Lisbon: Bridge Rehabilitation, $1.5m