EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 30, 2013

Ayotte aims to boost infrastructure banks

By John Toole
jtoole@eagletribune.com

---- — LONDONDERRY — U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., is introducing legislation that could help New Hampshire communities with projects like Pettengill Road construction.

“This legislation will give states the flexibility to use a portion of their federal money to help capitalize state infrastructure banks,” Ayotte said when announcing the effort, “which pool public and private resources to finance local transportation priorities.”

Ayotte’s proposal pleased state Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry, who has led efforts to start an infrastructure bank for New Hampshire public works projects.

“Sen. Ayotte understands that municipalities back home are struggling to fund needed local projects,” Carson said, “and that a state infrastructure bank is a useful tool to help them maximize their dollars.”

Londonderry wants to build Pettengill Road to open about 1,000 acres near Manchester-Boston Regional Airport for development.

One study has estimated the road could lead to commercial development creating 10,000 or more jobs. Its potential economic impact is winning support from officials at the town, regional and state levels.

“We’ve got to get Pettengill Road done,” Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission executive director David Preece said.

The jobs make Pettengill important in Preece’s view.

“That’s something you cannot ignore,” he said.

Town officials are pressing state officials to make Pettengill Road a priority in the 10-year transportation plan, while exploring options such as federal grants or a tax financing district to pay for it.

Carson had been pushing creation of an infrastructure bank. Gov. Maggie Hassan had publicly encouraged Carson’s efforts at a Pettengill forum in Londonderry this summer.

But state officials ultimately determined federal rules would not allow funneling aid through such a program.

Carson said earlier this month a study committee likely will ask the Legislature to enable an infrastructure bank, should federal rules change.

That’s where Ayotte’s bill in Washington could potentially make a positive difference for Pettengill or other projects.

“Federal rules shouldn’t prevent New Hampshire and other states from maximizing the effectiveness of federal transportation dollars,” Ayotte said.

The federal government used to let states use a portion of highway aid for infrastructure banks, but authorization has lapsed. Ayotte’s bill would revive the practice.

“We would support it wholeheartedly,” Preece said, noting the commission has been fully behind Carson’s call for a state infrastructure bank. “An infrastructure bank is essential. An investment in utilities and public transportation is an investment in our future.”