Rausch Transportation Bill Includes Exit 4-A Off I-93

Two Derry-based public officials have differing views on the transportation bill recently signed by Gov. Maggie Hassan.

State Sen. Jim Rausch, R-Derry, the bill’s prime sponsor, believes that the expansion of Interstate 93 to Manchester, fueled by a 4.2-cent increase in the gas tax, will also fuel Derry’s economic engine. But Town Councilor Thomas Cardon isn’t sure his town will see that much benefit from the building of Exit 4-A, a part of the transportation package.

Hassan signed SB 367 on May 20. The bipartisan legislation will fund the expansion of I-93 from Salem to Manchester, passing Derry and Londonderry on the way; provide for the long-discussed Exit 4-A; and improve other roads and bridges throughout the state. Forty-two percent of the revenue is expected to go toward the expansion.

At the time of signing Hassan said, “Our bipartisan transportation funding bill is the most significant state-level investment in transportation infrastructure in 23 years. This legislation is an important step toward addressing our transportation needs, keeping New Hampshire’s economy moving forward by advancing critical road and bridge projects, finishing the long-overdue expansion of I-93 and improving commutes for our workers and vendors.”

The bill was supported by the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association, the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association, and various local Chambers of Commerce.

In a phone interview May 22, Rausch said the gas tax is projected to generate $33 million a year and will be cut back after the bond is paid in 20 years.

Rausch said he’s been working on legislation to increase transportation funding since 2000, and the state has been looking at expanding I-93 since the 1980s. The highway, built as part of President Dwight Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway system in the 1950s, is “way over capacity,” Rausch said. “It’s handling three to four times its capacity.”

The project is expected to be completed by 2020, he said.

The highway expansion includes Exit 4-A, which will come off I-93 in Londonderry and empty into Derry. This is good, Rausch said, because it will give his hometown another access point off 93. It will relieve congestion in downtown Derry, he said, and also provide access and egress to residents of Hampstead, Sandown and other towns with no other access to the major highway.

In a tax revenue sense the exit will benefit Londonderry more than Derry, Rausch said. But development is development, and he expects to see an economic benefit to the entire region from the expansion and the additional exit.

Cardon studied 4-A and its impact for years before he became a Councilor in 2013. He said in a phone interview that he thinks building the exit is a “waste of money,” especially for Derry. People are going to use it as a cut-through to Chester, Sandown and Raymond, but they won’t necessarily stop to do business in Derry.

Cardon agreed with Rausch that there won’t be a lot of tax revenue. Most of Derry’s property near the proposed 4-A has already been developed, he said. “But it greatly benefits Londonderry,” he added. A portion of the planned Woodmont Commons development in Londonderry is based on the presence of 4-A.

In 1997, the town of Derry committed to raising $5 million as its share of the project, Cardon said. He was at the meeting as a private citizen and had his doubts even then, he said. “I told our then-Town Manager that it was going to end up costing $12 million, and he laughed,” Cardon recalled.

The town has authority to bond for the $5 million but has never bonded it, Cardon said.

He’s never been able to locate the contract town officials signed to authorize the bond, but he continues to ask about it.

“If any funding questions come up to the Council, I am opposed to it,” Cardon said.

The gas tax goes into effect July 1.

For more information on specific projects, visit www.nh.gov/dot/road-toll.