Lawmakers may look at selling naming rights to N.H. bridges, overpasses

Last modified: 11/30/2012 11:47:41 PM
The new Memorial Bridge, brought to you by Exxon Mobil? The Dunkin’ Donuts Exit 16 off Interstate 93?

Legislators next year will consider creating a committee to study selling naming rights to New Hampshire bridges, overpasses and other structures. Such a sponsorship program could generate badly needed revenue for the state Department of Transportation, said Rep. Dan McGuire, an Epsom Republican and the bill’s prime sponsor.

“There’s a big hole in the highway budget,” McGuire said yesterday. “I don’t think this will amount to a giant pool of money, but it will be something. Every little bit helps.”

Extra money would be welcome news for the DOT. Spokesman Bill Boynton said traditional funding sources – including a state gas tax that hasn’t been raised since 1991 – aren’t producing as much money as they once did for road paving and bridge repairs.

“I think we’re open to anything people can look at that might generate additional revenue,” Boynton said.

McGuire introduced a bill in January that would have allowed the DOT to seek bids “to sell naming rights for a particular structure, including but not limited to bridges, overpasses and exits, to the highest bidder.” The House sent the bill to interim study, and in October the Public Works and Highways Committee recommended new legislation for 2013.

McGuire then filed a legislative service request to draft a bill for next year “establishing a committee to study the sale of naming rights for certain structures.” If his bill passes and the committee is created, he said, it could iron out the details of final legislation to be considered in 2014.

Those details, he said, include “the whole structure of what it is you allow people to buy naming rights for, how much they would have to pay, what the length of the contracts would be and so on.” He also said lawmakers need to explore whether sponsorship deals could interfere with any federal rules.

His original bill dealt with transportation infrastructure, but the program could expand to include naming rights for state buildings, as well; “That would be something that the committee could look into,” McGuire said.

Several states are exploring similar programs.

The Ohio Department of Transportation this year kicked off a plan to sell advertising at rest stops and naming rights to roads and bridges. The rest-stop program could generate $13 million over the next eight years, and state officials think the naming-rights program could generate as much as $15 million a year, The Plain Dealer of Cleveland reported in September.

In Virginia, the Commonwealth Transportation Board was authorized this year to sell naming rights to bridges, highways, interchanges and other transportation facilities in exchange for an annual fee. The Virginia DOT began selling advertising and sponsorships at highway rest areas last year.

And sponsorship deals aren’t foreign to New Hampshire: This month, the DOT announced State Farm Insurance’s corporate logo had been added to the truck used by the motorist service patrol. That three-year deal is worth $145,000, Boynton said.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or or on Twitter @BenLeubsdorf.)

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