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Thursday, January 22, 2009

DOT Responds

NH Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Boynton has responded to yesterday's study and today's editorial in the Union Leader:
The Josiah Bartlett Center report issued Wednesday may have appeared to be a softball right down the middle of the plate for an editorial, but a call to the NH Department of Transportation (you know my number and Tom Fahey did call me) could have quickly clarified some very basic fundamental errors in the premise of the report that made its conclusions seriously flawed.

(1) All of the road and bridge projects ($220 million) in the NHDOT draft list of economic stimulus draft list are priorities within the State’s 10 Year Plan. Author Grant Bosse incorrectly assumed (he didn’t call me either for clarification) that $58.7 million in “resurfacing-pavement reconstruction projects” are not in the plan when in fact they have All been identified by the NHDOT as priorities under the 10 Year Plan heading of “Interstate Preservation Projects”.

(2) All of the road and bridge projects in the draft list are all “shovel ready” (design, right-of-way, etc.) and could be acted upon within 120 days as suggested in the Federal criteria.

(3) The rail money sought ($310 million) was correctly anticipated by the NHDOT to be available through a separate funding category in the House Bill for “rail and transit”. It is a HUGE, wrong assumption that this money could somehow be available for addressing Red List bridges.

(4) Whether or not you agree editorially with pursuing the rail improvements, the $10 million for the St. Lawrence and Atlantic upgrade in the North Country is in the State’s “Capital Plan”, and the $300 million for the upgrade of the “Capital Corridor line” (Lowell-Nashua-Manchester) is a priority for the NH Rail Authority which was established in law by the New Hampshire Legislature.

It is very unfortunate that much needed assistance for transportation infrastructure improvements and preservation in New Hampshire is recklessly characterized in your editorial as “the corrupting effect of "free" money from Washington”, especially in light of the facts.

Bill Boynton
Public Information Officer
NH Department of Transportation

Our report was based on a side-by-side comparison of three documents, the DOT Wish List, the Ten Year Transportation Improvement Plan approved by the Legislature in 2008, and the Red List of bridges maintained by the DOT Bureau of Bridge Design. It is intended to provide alternatives to lawmakers, and to show where New Hampshire had set its transportation priorities before talk a stimulus package led to the formation of a Wish List.

DOT has prepared funding requests based on the assumption that New Hampshire could receive separate funds for highway and rail projects. While we do not fault DOT for preparing its list under this assumption, policy makers shouldn't be bound by it. Our report states that such decisions are still being made by Congress, and that New Hampshire officials should push for greater flexibility to meet long-standing priorities. We stand by our report.


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