Republican Executive Councilor Russell Prescott has proposed an increase in the state’s turnpike tolls to fund repairs and improvement to the state’s roads and bridges.
The New Hampshire Turnpike System is comprised of the Central Turnpike and the Eastern Turnpike.
The 39.5 miles of the Central Turnpike include the Everett Turnpike (Route 3) and a stretch of Interstate 93 to Concord. The Eastern Turnpike includes 33.2 miles of the Spaulding Turnpike (Route 16) and 16.2 miles of the Blue Star Turnpike (Interstate 95).
The primary revenue source for the upkeep of these roads is toll collections. Tolls have funded repairs and maintenance on these roads since the Turnpike System was created in 1950.
The Turnpike System is distinct from the rest of the state’s roads and bridges, which are maintained and improved with revenue from the state portion of the gas tax.
Gas tax revenues are not used for the turnpikes, nor is toll revenue used for non-Turnpike System roads.
It’s been 10 years since the last toll increase. Tolls vary according to where they are paid. For example, the Hooksett toll is $1, the Hampton toll is $2, and the Dover toll is 75 cents. E-Z Pass users from New Hampshire get a discount.
The proposed increase would raise the rates to $1.50 from $1 at the mainline tolls at Hooksett and Bedford. The Hampton toll would go up to $2.50, and the toll plazas on the Spaulding Turnpike in Dover and Rochester would go up to $1 apiece from the current 75 cents.
The E-Z Pass discount would remain and frequent toll users would get an additional break: The first 40 trips for in-state residents would be paid at the regular discounted rate. The next 10 each month would be free.
Those arguing for the increase say the current toll rate - averaging 6.2 cents per turnpike mile - is the sixth lowest in the country and well below the national average of 20.7 cents. They say it would help accelerate much-needed highway projects, such as widening the Everett Turnpike from Bow through Concord.
Opponents say it is a hidden tax that will affect working class individuals the most. Executive Councilor David Wheeler also believes the proposal was put forward near the holidays to avoid attention from the public.
Is an increase in turnpike tolls warranted? Let us know what you think in the comments below.