Southern New Hampshire representatives and the state’s congressional delegation will need to don their lobbying hats to assure the Granite State gets the federal funding it needs to complete the widening of Interstate 93.
Despite a 4.2 cents per gallon increase in the state gas tax that went into effect Monday, New Hampshire still needs federal funds to bring the $769 million I-93 project to completion. But U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen warns that the national highway trust fund could face a shortfall by the end of the fiscal year. The depletion of the fund would mean the loss of $55 million in federal transportation money for New Hampshire and the loss of 700 jobs.
“We need a short-term fix to get us through this fiscal year,” Shaheen said as she gathered 20 representatives of Southern New Hampshire at a newly paved portion of I-93 Tuesday. “We have a critical issue right now. This needs to get fixed -- we have jobs depending on this.”
It’s not just construction jobs that are at stake. The I-93 project is vital to increasing safety on the highway used daily by thousands of commuters from the southern tier of the state. The highway’s expansion is also key to new development along its length.
The increased gas tax will help fund about $200 million in work on the project. But that federal $50 million is vital, according to state transportation officials. Failure by Congress to act in a timely fashion will just increase the project’s price tag.
“Every delay results in cost increases,” DOT Deputy Commissioner Patrick McKenna said. “It is a critical situation in the state of New Hampshire.”
David Preece, executive director of the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission, and Windham community development director Laura Scott told the crowd completion of the project would help spur economic development in the area, The Eagle-Tribune’s Doug Ireland reported.