To The Daily Sun,
On Wednesday Dec. 16, the Governor's Advisory Commission on Intermodal Transportation (GACIT) submitted its Ten Year Transportation Improvement Plan (Ten Year Plan) to the governor for the State of New Hampshire.
The members of the commission included the Executive Council and the commissioner of Transportation, who serves as a non-voting member. The process began in July when Department of Transportation (DOT) and nine Regional Planning Commissions finalized a draft based on preservation, maintenance and safety of the pavement and bridge infrastructure throughout the state.
The Ten Year Highway Plan aggressively addressed financial constraint, assuming federal funding of about $160 million per year, with continued reliance on turnpike toll credits in lieu of state hard match to the federal program. The draft plan addressed the highest priorities developed by each Regional Planning Commission. The result was a financially constrained document identifying the needs that best align with the priorities of communities, the Regional Planning Commissions and DOT.
GACIT held 16 public hearings throughout the state between September and October to receive input from the public on the draft and transportation funding issues the state is facing. In Executive Council District 1, there were six hearings, in Conway, Berlin, Wakefield, Laconia, Plymouth and Lebanon.
The themes that were heard most often included: preservation and maintenance efforts to safeguard and improve infrastructure conditions of all roads, especially secondary and unnumbered state roads, recognizing that the transportation needs of our older population in New Hampshire are changing, that millennials are also very interested in transportation options that do not include the use of vehicles, and the support of transit and safety funding through the CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality) program and HSIP (Highway Safety Improvement Program).
On Nov. 30, GACIT met to finalize the recommendations made throughout the process to include six priority changes (see the complete list at https://www.nh.gov/dot/org/projectdevelopment/planning/typ/documents/GACITAdoptedtoGov121615.pdf) of which one included the use of GARVEE bonds to advance and complete bridge improvement of I-89 bridges over the Connecticut River in Lebanon.
GACIT made the following additions in Executive Council District 1: 1. $2.25 million in construction funding for U.S. 4 (Mechanic Street) improvements in Lebanon; 2. include funding to complete improvements to the U.S. 2 corridor in Jefferson and Randolph; 3. re-scope an existing funded Center Harbor-New Hampton bridge project to be a bridge rehabilitation project. Construction is currently scheduled in FY 2021; and 4. advance improvements to U.S. 3 in Colebrook to FY 2020 (previously 2023), allowing a local water and sewer infrastructure improvement project, roadway resurfacing and sidewalk improvements to all occur at the same time.
On Nov. 30, the U.S. Congress passed the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which provides increased federal funding to the states for a five-year period. GACIT recommended to use any supplementary funding for red listed bridges and to continue to improve pavement conditions across the state. However, the GACIT refers to the governor and Legislature on how best to use these additional funds.
The Ten Highway Plan is now in the hands of the governor and in January it will go through the legislative process as a comprehensive bill and then the final plan will be passed and signed into law in June 2016.
Joseph D. Kenney
Executive Councilor District 1