By John Toole
---- — CONCORD — A New Hampshire House panel wants the state to consider awarding naming rights for highway bridges, overpasses and exits.
The Public Works and Highways Committee, on a 15-0 vote, recommended passage for a bill establishing a study commission to consider the idea.
“We need to continue to explore any and all avenues to increase the Department of Transportation’s revenue stream,” House Republican Leader Gene Chandler, R-Bartlett, said in a written report to the House on behalf of the committee.
The bill appears on the calendar for the House session scheduled for Jan. 8.
Rep. J. Tracy Emerick, R-Hampton, a co-sponsor of House Bill 534, said the strong committee vote and the bill’s placement on the consent portion of the calendar, bode well for passage.
“Coming out of committee with a unanimous vote does have an impact,” Emerick said.
He likes the bill’s chances in the Senate, too.
“They’re looking for ways to fund the state as well,” Emerick said.
The Department of Transportation hasn’t taken a position on the bill, spokesman William Boynton said.
“It’s unclear what the interest would be or whether this approach could raise much money,” he said.
But sponsors see potential in the proposal, Emerick said.
“Private enterprise could take responsibility for a bridge and keep it up to state code,” he said.
There might be an opportunity to generate funds through companies that build New Hampshire’s roads and bridges, he said.
“You never know,” he said. “Big construction companies might be interested.”
Rep. Walter Kolodziej, R-Windham, a member of the House panel, said he doesn’t oppose study by a commission, but objects to the naming rights concept.
“I don’t believe in it,” Kolodziej said. “We can find better ways to find those dollars.”
Steve Gabriel, managing partner with 36creative, a Windham-based marketing firm, said naming rights could be a way to keep up bridges and overpasses.
“Some of the larger local companies with a solid footprint within their communities, I can see them participating in sponsorship,” Gabriel said. “Smaller companies, not so much.”
The price tag and appearance of signs would be variables in whether companies participate, he said.