N.H. DOT Targets $15 Million Annual Budget For Bike Lanes, Sidewalks And Other Active Transportation
The N.H. Department of Transportation estimated on Friday that they will spend an average of $15 million dollars a year from 2023-2032 on projects that include an active transportation component, like biking or walking.
The DOT offered this estimate at the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Intermodal Transportation (GACIT) kickoff meeting to the 10-year transportation plan. It is the first time the department has standardized the figure. The estimate follows increased pressure from advocates across the state who want to see more investment in active transportation.
N.H. DOT Commissioner Victoria Sheehan says with this estimate, the department can clearly demonstrate the ways in which it is building active transportation into state infrastructure.
Sheehan highlighted the Hampton Harbor Bridge project as an example, which she says needs to be replaced.
“But as we're advancing that project and working with the community, we're going to make a lot of improvements to support active transportation, given the location and the level of advocacy,” she said.
Still, it can be tough to access funding for projects that include active transportation.
While there is federal funding specifically available for N.H. alternative transportation projects, Sheehan said there’s more demand than the program can currently meet.
“We have about 13 million available in funding...we received 34 applications with an approximate value of about 25 million,” Sheehan said.
The town of Bristol has spent over two decades trying to widen a road near the downtown to make travel safer for bikers and pedestrians. But minimal progress on the project has been made, according to Nik Coates, Bristol’s town administrator.
“We had submitted this project on the 10-year plan off and on the 10-year plan for like 25 years. And so we've been pushing really hard to keep it in and keep it on the schedule.”
Coates says keeping a project in the state’s 10-year transportation plan at all requires a lot of persistence and advocacy.
Mark Bucklin, Bristol’s highway superintendent, agrees it’s been difficult to get the project off the ground, despite a real safety risk for non-drivers who frequently use the road to access the local Rite Aid and Dunkin Donuts.
“There's very little shoulder, no sidewalk or anything to get out here. And that's why we've been pushing for this.”
Sheehan is hopeful that more emphasis on infrastructure at the federal level will lead to more funding for a wide range of state projects.
But exactly how much, and how the dollars could be spent, she said, is difficult to say.