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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Whose Priorities

The Concord Monitor reports on our latesdt study, "Get Your Shovels Ready" in this weekend's Capital Beat column:

Whose priorities?

Former GOP congressional candidate Grant Bosse, an investigator for the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy Research, released a cleverly titled report criticizing the state Department of Transportation for its bailout wish list.

The report, "Get Your Shovels Ready: State DOT Wish List Ignores Legislative Priorities," essentially lambasted the list created by Transportation Commissioner George Campbell, saying it's heavy on rail and light on the 10-year highway plan, which legislators have approved.

"The New Hampshire Department of Transportation Wish List for spending the anticipated federal windfall from the Obama Administration ignores legislative priorities from the Ten Year Transportation Improvement Plan, and misses an opportunity to fix every Red List bridge in the state," Bosse wrote.

By the numbers, Bosse makes a point: Campbell's list includes about $220 million for highway projects and $310 million worth of railroad projects not on the 10-year plan.

But Transportation Department spokesman Bill Boynton said the report was misleading.

"To say in a so-called research effort that we're ignoring our legislative priorities or we're ignoring the 10-year plan is not true," Boynton said.

First off, Boynton said, roughly $60 million worth of road repair/preservation efforts depicted in the report as being non-10-year-plan priorities were, in fact, included in the plan (though not by name), on page 87.

More broadly, Boynton said, the department listed all the high-priority road projects it felt it could get going in the 120-day window the feds have asked for. And, he said, the rail projects were listed because specific money will likely be doled out to rail projects.

"The comparison should not be $300 million to $200 million, it should be $300 million to zero," Boynton said. "Because if we didn't apply for anything called 'rail and transit,' that's what we'd get - zero."

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