My Turn: I-93 expansion delays hurt city, state, environment

For the Monitor
Published: 8/12/2020 6:00:52 AM

Gov. Chris Sununu recently signed into law the state’s 10-Year Transportation Improvement Plan. According to the Conway Daily Sun, the proposed expansion of Interstate 93 from Bow through Concord has been delayed for two years, due to lack of funding.

If it seems to you like the Bow-Concord project is pushed back two more years every two years, you’re not hallucinating. In the 2007 10-Year Plan, construction was planned to begin in 2014. In the just approved 2021 plan, it is scheduled to begin in 2026.

In 14 years, we’re only two years closer and it’s still five years away. Had construction begun in 2014, it would be done now.

I-93 in Concord carries tens of thousands of people to, from, and through Concord daily. Demand regularly exceeds capacity, resulting in legendary traffic jams. One can only imagine how bad congestion will be by the time construction begins in 2026, or will that be in 2046?

Highways, in general, and specifically interstate highways, have a profound effect on the economy. It’s not an exaggeration to say that New Hampshire’s highways are critical to the health of New Hampshire’s economy.

Vehicle owners, just by being vehicle owners, contribute many millions to the economy by buying, fueling, maintaining, and insuring their vehicles. Multiple highway user taxes, tolls, and fees generate tens of millions more for federal, state, and municipal coffers.

I-93 is the artery that delivers tourists to the Lakes and the North Country, both of which depend on tourism. Another two-year delay means two more years of congestion, resulting in two more years of unnecessary idling, which translates into unnecessary fuel waste, unnecessary emissions, costly delays for commercial traffic, and more. The Union Leader has dubbed it “the Concord bottleneck.”

Another two-year delay means tens of millions of vehicles will pass over and under each of the eight red-listed bridges – including three of the state’s 15 reddest – that are within the limits of the Bow-Concord project.

Concord and every town north of Concord has, or should have, a strong interest in the I-93 Bow-Concord project. In spite of all the important reasons why the Bow-Concord project should be fast-tracked, it was instead sidelined. Again. Two more years.

Shame on the Legislature and the Executive Council, and especially shame on Concord’s representatives for allowing this to happen while they divert highway revenue, try to balance the books on the backs of fuel-efficient vehicle owners, and diddlewithtrains and flying cars.

(Dick Lemieux lives in Concord.)

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