CONCORD — The $800 million Interstate 93 widening is the state’s longstanding priority for transportation funding, but a key lawmaker is challenging that view.
Rep. John Cloutier, D-Claremont, vice chairman of the House Public Works and Highways Committee, is sponsoring a bill to repeal I-93’s priority status.
He said that would give the state Department of Transportation flexibility to fund other projects.
“There are other needs in other parts of the state that are being ignored,” Cloutier said.
He can expect a fight over his proposal.
“I-93 is very, very important,” said Rep. Mary Griffin, R-Windham. “We’ve got to finish that. We’ve worked long and hard on that. That is vitally important to bringing our economy back.”
Rep. Jim Webb, D-Derry, agrees with Griffin.
“I-93 is important to the entire state,” he said.
Just look at the tourists or auto racing fans who come into the state on I-93, he said.
“I think he can expect a fight,” Webb said. “I’ll get up and speak against it.”
Even if Cloutier gets his bill through the House, Webb expects the Senate would put a stop to it.
“If it gets that far, I think the Senate will kill it anyway,” he said.
Cloutier acknowledges he supported making the widening of I-93 a funding priority in years past, but has concluded times have changed, money is scarce and the state has to look at other considerations.
“These are not normal times,” Cloutier said.
Because New Hampshire also has to fix roads and bridges elsewhere in the state, it will have to spend more later if it doesn’t do something now, he said.
“There are consequences to our inaction,” he said.
Cloutier is hoping his bill will force House and Senate lawmakers to consider funding options to finance road and bridge improvements statewide.