New Hampshire governor puts brakes on toll hike plan
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A proposal to increase tolls for the first time in a decade in New Hampshire appears dead after Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said Thursday he wouldn’t let it proceed.
The Republican governor said that he’s long been opposed to toll increases and hadn’t changed his mind after hearing from the public and Executive Council members. His position was an about-face to what he said Wednesday when he told reporters he would let the proposal onto the Executive Council agenda.
“I was sent to Concord to fight for the working men and women of New Hampshire, and that is what I am doing,” Sununu said in a news release.
The Department of Transportation is seeking to increase toll rates by 50 percent in March to bring in an additional $36 million a year for major turnpike projects. It said that many of the toll-payers are out-of-state drivers. A 10-year plan that includes scores of project that depend on the hike was approved Wednesday by a transportation commission.
Among the projects that would benefit would be several improvements along Interstate 93. They include interchange improvements and widening the highway in certain places.
In several public hearings, the increase got mixed reviews. Supporters including many municipal officials said the money would pay for much-need upgrades to roads and bridges that would improve safety. Opponents called the increase a tax and said it was an unnecessary expense that could hurt some transportation businesses in the state.
Republican leaders in the Senate and House praised Sununu’s decision, adding they expected to debate the 10-year transportation plan during the upcoming legislative session. They also said the toll hike proposal was rushed and that legislators needed to prioritize what projects can be done with existing funds.