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Some Facts About New Hampshire’s Infrastructure:New Hampshire has approximately 17,000 miles of state and town roads, turnpikes and interstate highways. There are 3,795 bridges in the state. As of 2010, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation plowed more than 800 lane miles of roads and put down 180,000 tons of salt for snow and ice control annually.The state was given a “C” grade by the American Society of Civil Engineers for the condition of its roads and bridges. New Hampshire was rated among the worst in the country for the poor condition of its bridges by Transportation For America. On average, bridges are older in New Hampshire than those in the rest of the country. There are hundreds of bridges on the so-called “red list,” which means that the bridges have major structural problems and need to be repaired or replaced.The state also has a poor record when it comes to public transportation. New Hampshire has no comprehensive rail system and is rated 42nd in terms of investment in public transportation according to the State Department of Transportation.The majority of New Hampshire’s infrastructure funding comes from vehicle registration fees and gas taxes. The state takes out fewer bond loans than other states and considers its funding a “pay as you go” system. The gas tax, the lowest in New England, has not been raised since 1991. The 2011 Legislature did away with a motor vehicle fee increase. That change has meant more $30 million a year in cuts to DOT.The $800 million expansion of I-93 from Salem to Manchester began in 2006, but has been delayed several times because of a lack of funding. Supporters of the expansion say it will update one of the country’s most congested highways and bring needed tourism revenue to the more isolated and less economically robust northern part of the state. Traffic on I-93 has increased 600 percent since the highway was built in the 1960s and approximately 80,000 cars now drive on it each day.Summary provided by StateImpact NH

Report Says N.H. Residents Support Increased Gas Tax for Infrastructure Needs

Petr Kratochvil
Wikimedia Commons

Research from University of New Hampshire released last week, shows that more than 60 percent of New Hampshire residents would support an increase to the state gas tax to maintain infrastructure. But most people have no idea what the gas tax is now.

Larry Hamilton is one of the researchers and a professor of sociology at UNH. Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with him about the report.
What is the current gas tax? Since most of the people you talked to had no idea.

Well if you combine the state and federal gas tax, it's a bit over 40 cents on a gallon of unleaded gas.

And most of the people you talked to said they would support maybe a 10 cent increase to accomplish you know maintaining some infrastructure?

Yeah. We asked a survey question where we said: would you support a gas tax increase of x cents per gallon if needed to support maintaining highways and bridges? And we got pretty good support, 60 plus percent for a 5 cent or a 10 cent increase and then it tailed off after that.

You also looked at how people responded according to the political party affiliations didn't you?

Well the gist of it is that Democrats or Independents were most supportive of an increase gas tax, and all this is predicated on if necessary to maintain New Hampshire highways and bridges. So Democrats and Independents would support an increase of up to 20 cents or perhaps more, and Republicans something like 10 cents or more. And Tea Party supporters really wouldn't support any gas tax increase.

Probably no real surprises there I guess. But you know, less than 40 percent of people you talked with even knew about some of the worsening conditions with New Hampshire infrastructure, which I found surprising. What do you think is keeping people out of that loop?

Well one thing that our research highlights is how much need for public awareness or information there is. I think people's willingness to see a need for infrastructure maintenance is related to their willingness to pay taxes for it. The people who don't want to pay taxes are also people who are more likely to say that conditions are the same or better. And I think the causality may run in reverse, that they have a view of taxes and that informs whether they see a problem or not.

So the takeaway here is that one can inform the other, but maybe not in the right way.

Yeah that ideology structures perceptions of reality.

But it's just surprising to me that somewhere around 60 percent of the people you surveyed weren't even aware, or at least not admitting they were aware of the problem.

Yes, that's right. There's a bunch of who thought it was about the same. And some people even thought that conditions were better than they were 10 or 20 years ago, which is not the data we have. There's a wonderful report card put out by a group called the American Society for Civil Engineers. Anybody can look this up online and see how they break down each category of New Hampshire transportation infrastructure and graded it on an A-F scale. Overall, a lot of our infrastructure was built quite a while ago—bridges before the 1980s. And they have an unexpected lifespan of something on the order of 50 years. So a lot of sort of maintenance bills are coming past due in the near future.

For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.
Mary McIntyre is a senior producer at NHPR. She manages the station's news magazines, Morning Edition and All Things Considered. You can email her at mmcintyre@nhpr.org.

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