To jump-start the economy, fix our roads
New Hampshire is a largely rural state, and because of this we are heavily reliant on our highway infrastructure for the efficient transport of goods and services. In today’s business environment, consumers demand goods more quickly. How fast a business can provide those goods is critical to its success.Deficient roads and bridges in New Hampshire pose a serious obstacle to quick delivery, as trucks currently need to navigate around weight-posted bridges and congestion. These hazards push new businesses to other states with better transportation systems, taking potential jobs with them. If we want to draw new business to the state, we must improve our infrastructure.Recently, The Road Information Program (TRIP) released a study of New Hampshire’s highways and bridges. According to the study, approximately one-third of New Hampshire’s major roads are deteriorated, 32 percent of the state’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and more than half of the state’s roads are congested during peak travel times. This growing disrepair has a direct impact on all New Hampshire citizens. In addition to the delays for business deliveries, there are costs and safety concerns for our families.The study found that these deteriorating roads and bridges cost each New Hampshire driver $259 annually in extra vehicle costs for items such as maintenance and tire repair.The TRIP report also highlighted the fact that New Hampshire lacks the necessary funding to make critical improvements to our roads and bridges. While many projects have been culled from the state’s 10-year transportation plan, there remains an anticipated shortfall of approximately $1 billion over the next 10 years. Projects critical to the state’s economic growth, such as widening Interstate 93 to four lanes between Salem and Manchester, lack the funding necessary to complete them. Investment and maintenance of our transportation infrastructure is a core function of both state and federal government. However, while taxes increase and government continues to grow, this critical need continues to get passed over. Consider that even though infrastructure investments were a key driver of President Obama’s stimulus program, in the end less than 5 percent of stimulus funds actually went toward infrastructure investments. In addition, while Congress has focused on health-care reform and various other government initiatives, the critical effort to implement a new federal highway funding program has been put on hold. As the economy looks to rebound, investing in the state’s roads and bridges is one of the quickest ways to jump-start it. Funding the maintenance and repair of the state’s infrastructure will put many people to work here in New Hampshire, and as a result, their paychecks will spread throughout the economy as they buy goods and services. Investing in our roads and bridges will make New Hampshire more attractive to businesses that require an efficient and effective transportation system, and it will make our roads safer for our workers and families.The benefits of these expenditures are manifold. This is the action needed to initiate a full-scale economic recovery, which will attract new businesses and create jobs while improving our quality of life. Sen. Robert Letourneau, R-Derry, is a member of the Senate Transportation and Interstate Cooperation Committee.