A coalition of more than 70 legislators from New Hampshire and Massachusetts restated its opposition to Interstate 93 border tolls yesterday, following word that New Hampshire plans to apply for federal approval for a southbound toll in April.
"We have nothing to do with this application for federal approval," said Rep. Frank Sapareto, R-Derry, a coalition organizer.
Coalition members said a toll would be an economic burden for residents and cause congestion in towns off I-93.
Furthermore, Sapareto said, he wonders where New Hampshire Department of Transportation Commissioner George Campbell is getting his "marching orders" to pursue federal approval.
New Hampshire DOT spokesman Bill Boynton said the commissioner is required by state law "to explore any and all funding options to meet the transportation needs of the state of New Hampshire."
Final action on any funding options would come from the Legislature, Boynton said.
The two-state coalition first stated its opposition to border tolls about a year ago when its ranks included former state Sen. Scott Brown — now a U.S. senator.
Other Bay State legislators in the coalition included Rep. David Torrisi, D-North Andover; Sen. Steven Baddour, D-Methuen; Sen. Susan Tucker, D-Andover; and Sen. Robert Hedlund, R-Weymouth.
In New Hampshire, coalition members included Rep. Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry; Rep. Margaret Crisler, R-Windham; Rep. Frank Emiro, R-Londonderry; and Rep. Anthony DiFruscia, R-Windham.
Sapareto and Hedlund are spearheading the regional opposition to tolls. Hedlund said yesterday that he has not heard lately that Massachusetts is interested in putting a toll on its side of the border.
If a toll were proposed, legislative opposition would be strong, Sapareto said.
Massachusetts has not filed a letter with the Federal Highway Administration indicating its intent to apply for the toll program. New Hampshire has filed a letter of intent with the agency.
Campbell said a toll is a fair and sustainable way to pay for the state's $260 million shortfall to complete the $780 million widening of the congested interstate, its projected bond expenses and its operating costs.
The toll would be $2, proposed a half-mile from the border in Salem.
Campbell said he hopes to find out by fall whether New Hampshire is eligible for the federal toll program. If it is, then the commissioner would bring that information to an 11-member committee in New Hampshire studying ways to pay for the state's transportation needs, including the I-93 widening.
The state would host public hearings around New Hampshire to gauge residents' thoughts about a border toll, Boynton said.
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