WINDHAM — Top state and local officials are concerned completion of the $769 million widening of Interstate 93 could be jeopardized by a loss of federal highway funding.
That’s why U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., was joined by nearly 20 representatives from Windham, Derry, Londonderry and Salem, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation and other agencies on a newly paved portion of I-93 yesterday.
They came to push for the need for more funding for the 20-mile widening project and other transportation improvement projects.
Shaheen said with the upcoming Fourth of July weekend, one of the busiest holiday travel periods of the year, the time was right to call for more transportation funding.
“We know how crucial it is here to have good roads, bridges and infrastructure at the beginning of tourism season,” she said.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has projected the national highway trust fund could be hit with a shortfall before the end of fiscal 2014.
The fund’s depletion would mean the loss of $55 million in transportation money for New Hampshire and more than 700 jobs, according to Shaheen’s office.
“We need a short-term fix to get us through this fiscal year,” Shaheen said. “We have a critical issue right now. This needs to get fixed — we have jobs depending on this.”
The loss of federal funding would severely hamper the I-93 widening between Salem and Manchester, according to DOT Deputy Commissioner Patrick McKenna.
A state fuel tax increase of 4.2 cents per gallon, enacted yesterday, will help fund approximately $200 million of the project, but federal money is still needed, McKenna said.
“We’re relying on $50 million in federal funds on top of that to complete the work,” McKenna said.
Failure by Congress to act in a timely fashion will just increase the project’s price tag, he said.