EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 23, 2013

Letter: Make tourists help pay for NH roads

The Eagle-Tribune

---- — To the editor:

As we set our summer calendars, some of us will plan around the heavy weekend traffic that is the hallmark of our busiest tourist season. The next time you find yourself moving slowly through weekend highway traffic, look around at the license plates. How many are from out of state?

If an increase in the state gas tax passes the New Hampshire Senate, our 13 million summer tourists will soon become partners in repairing the roads and bridges that they enjoy.

These drivers count on solid bridges to take them over rivers on their way to hiking Kearsarge, canoeing the Connecticut or attending the Mud Run and Smoke Show in Colebrook. They need safe roads to take them to Hampton Beach, Santa’s Village or the New Hampshire Crafts Fair at Lake Sunapee in August. We have something special here, and I believe these visitors should help to pay for its upkeep.

The Senate will soon act to determine the fate of a modest proposal to increase the state gas tax by 4 cents each of the next three years, a total of 12 cents.

The tax has not been increased since 1991, when the price of gas was around $1.09 a gallon. The average price of gas today is more than triple that, and not one penny of that increase has helped New Hampshire taxpayers take care of our deteriorating infrastructure.

If we pass the increase now, we can enjoy the coming tourist seasons knowing every car can help us with our infrastructure costs.

Fifteen percent of our bridges need repair or replacement; 1,661 miles of our roads are in poor condition; and drivers pay repair costs of $300 to $500 per year for vehicle damage as a result. It will cost $1.3 billion to complete the list of repairs needed today. We must make a beginning, and HB 617 is it.

If the Senate passes this increase now, HB 617 designates every penny to roads and bridges. Previous legislatures allowed money to be siphoned off for other uses, but this Legislature ensured that will not happen with these funds

New Hampshire needs the revenue, and it is time we asked our visitors to pick-up part of the tab.

Lisa I. Whittemore

State Representative