5 Reasons N.H.’s Roads Are Looking Beat Up

Part II of our Roads series.

This week on StateImpact NH: a three-part series on roads. Transportation funding is a big issue in the legislature this session. A fifteen-cent gas tax has gotten initial support in the House, and advocates of high stakes gambling in New Hampshire say a portion of the revenue from a casino would go directly into the state’s Highway Fund. But getting either proposal through both chambers will be a doozy. So, we’re digging into roads.

First, we looked at just how bad our roads are. Today, we’ll tell you the 5 reasons our roads are looking beat up. And finally, we’ll look at what that means for your car, your pocketbook, and your safety.

Also, share your road story.


Those potholes you swerve around every day are caused by a confluence of variables. But mostly, it comes down to water, oil and money.

1. It’s all about water.
The kind of weather we’ve seen this winter – a lot of precipitation combined with frequent freezing and thawing and extreme temperatures – will destroy roads, fast. New Hampshire has a lot of frost-susceptible soil, says Jo Daniel of UNH’s Department of Civil Engineering. When rain or melted snow freezes, it forms an “ice lens” in the soil beneath the pavement that pushes up the asphalt causing frost heaves, and ultimately potholes. Not only do the frequent freezing and thawing that we’ve seen recently in New Hampshire degrade roads, but so do the extreme temperatures we saw earlier in the season – when highs near 60 followed lows in the single digits, in less than a week’s span.

2. And geography.
On top of that, New Hampshire is located in one of the worst parts of the country for winter road maintenance. Plowing snow and salting roads takes a $39 million bite out of what would otherwise be road repair budgets, according to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation. Continue Reading

How Bad Are N.H. Roads, Really?

Part I of our Roads series.

This week on StateImpact NH: a three-part series on roads. Transportation funding is a big issue in the legislature this session. A fifteen-cent gas tax has gotten initial support in the House, and advocates of high stakes gambling in New Hampshire say a portion of the revenue from a casino would go directly into the state’s Highway Fund. But getting either proposal through both chambers will be a doozy. So, we’re digging into roads.

First, we look at just how bad our roads are. Next, we’ll tell you the 5 reasons our roads are so beat up. And finally what that means for your car, your pocketbook, and your safety.

Also, share your road story.
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So, How Bad Are New Hampshire Roads?

Valerie and Berthold Horn say one road they drive on in Conway could win a “worst road in New Hampshire” contest, hands down.

We have had literally thousands of dollars of car repairs as a result of driving on East Conway Rd. and Green Hill Rd. during the last three years. Unfortunately for us, there is no other way to get to work, or shopping, or anything else for that matter.

NHDOT

This graph shows the average price for one ton of asphalt, from 1992-2012.

StateImpact NH has heard from a lot of disgruntled Granite Staters, who say the roads they drive on are terrible. And it’s true: the quality of New Hampshire’s roads has been steadily declining. Oil prices are pushing paving costs up, fuel-efficient cars mean fewer gas tax dollars for the state’s Highway Fund, and inflation means those dollars buy less, too.

Today, 37 percent of state-maintained roads and highways are deemed “in poor condition” by the state’s Department of Transportation. Under current funding, that will increase to 43 percent by 2016. And bad roads are getting worse. That’s because it costs twenty times as much to reconstruct a badly maintained road than to resurface one in decent condition. “Fixing worst first,” says Bill Boynton at NHDOT, “you’ll never catch up.”

That’s why people like the Horns say they’re baffled that public workers are repaving the part of the roads that are “actually in reasonable shape.” It costs $50,000 to repave a decently maintained road, and $1 million to reconstruct a failed road.

On top of that, the state prioritizes road repair projects based on traffic patterns. So while interstates may stay in excellent condition, roads less travelled are likely to fall deeper and deeper into disrepair.

Check out this NHDOT graphic, which compares road conditions from 2000 and 2012.

NHDOT

Miles of roads in poor condition have increased throughout the state. Red lines indicate poor condition, yellow indicate fair, and green indicate good condition roads. All roads are state roads.

Including funding for the I-93 expansion, Boynton says New Hampshire would need $74 million each year just to maintain current road and bridge conditions. To fix all state-owned roads and bridges would cost $1.3 billion dollars.

Valerie and Berthold Horn say East Conway Road in Conway would win a "worst NH road challenge."

Of course, state roads make up only 30 percent of New Hampshire roads. Towns are struggling to maintain their roads too, perhaps even more so than the state. While NHDOT is on track to repave each road every thirteen years or so — three years slower than NHDOT would like — many towns in New Hampshire are on track to repave their roads every 100 years.

“Infrastructure is a big line item,” says Beth Hamilton at the University of New Hampshire’s Technology Transfer Center, which works with municipal public works departments across the state. But, she says, it’s often impossible for towns to choose road repair over education, police and firemen — not to mention more urgent road expenses, like plowing, or rebuilding roads lost to storm damage.

Stay tuned for the next segment of our roads series tomorrow morning, here at StateImpact New Hampshire. And, send us your photos!

Upgrades To Vermont’s Rail System Will Allow For Faster Travel

Vermont is increasing the speed of their Vermonter train line by 30 percent, with upgrades funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and New England Central Railroad.


Passenger and freight trains running along the 200 or so miles of the New England Central Railroad between Alburgh and Vernon are currently permitted to travel at 10-50 mph. On Monday, the speed limit will increase to 59 mph from Alburgh to White River Junction, and 79 mph from White River Junction to Vernon, according to the Vermont Agency of Transportation.

Read more at: www.burlingtonfreepress.com

Three Years Later: The Progress And Challenges Of The Green Launching Pad

Amanda Loder / StateImpact New Hampshire

Despite the challenges the GLP faces, Project Director Venky Venkatachalam is optimistic about the program's future.

A taxpayer-funded eco-business program is paying off for New Hampshire.  The Green Launching Pad at the University of New Hampshire has given grants to more than a dozen start-ups in the state.  But it hasn’t awarded any new funds since last year.

But the scene at the statehouse last winter was one of optimism for a cadre of entrepreneurs and their supporters.   The Green Launching Pad was awarding its companies federal money.  Over the course of two years, the program  got $1.5 million in stimulus funding to give out to the most promising green start-ups in the state.  Then-Governor John Lynch was optimistic about the program’s future even as the federal funds were drying up. Continue Reading

Renewable Energy Entrepreneur Talks Benefits, Challenges Of Going Green In N.H.

Amanda Loder / StateImpact New Hampshire

The crew at Revolution Energy are behind one of the Green Launching Pad's biggest success stories. (From left: Co-founder Mike Behrmann, Chief Scientific Officer Jon Spencer, and Co-founder Clay Mitchell.)

This week, StateImpact will be checking-in on the progress of the University of New Hampshire‘s Green Launching Pad initiative.  Begun in 2010 with $1.5 million in federal stimulus money, the GLP’s goal is to provide seed money, UNH faculty business expertise, and student interns to entrepreneurs in the state’s growing green sectors.

One of the Green Launching Pad’s biggest success stories has been Portsmouth-based Revolution Energy.  While the company started in 2008, it didn’t really start taking off until 2010.  That’s when it received a competitive $60,000 grant from the GLP in the initiative’s first round of funding. In a lot of ways, Revolution Energy looks and feels a lot like a classic start-up.  At the office, the team wears casual clothes, and the decor alternates between Dungeons and Dragons classic geek-chic and internet-age irony.

Good humor, hoodies and 20-sided dice aside, sustainability is serious business for the crew at Revolution Energy. Continue Reading

Brookings Report Shows Rail Ridership Up Nationally, 55 Percent

“American passenger rail is in the midst of a renaissance,” writes Robert Puentes, the author of the Brookings Institution’s new report on Amtrak ridership in America. At 55 percent, growth in ridership “far outpaces growth in population and economic output” between 1997 and the present. And the Northeast is at the center of a lot of that activity.

Brookings Institution Infographic

Check out the Brookings Institution’s interactive map, blogpost, and full report. The report includes recommendations to state and federal policymakers, and is titled: “American Passenger Rrail In An Era Of Fiscal Restraint.”

If Bumpy Roads Make You Grumpy, Click Here

We want you to send us pictures of the worst roads you have to drive on.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

South St. in Concord is on NHDOT's list of roads in poor condition.

New Hampshire roads are in bad shape — and, according to state and city officials, they’re getting worse. While we work on a series about why our roads are deteriorating so fast, we hope you’ll get in touch with pictures or stories about that epic-ly beat up road you’d rather not drive on.

Send pictures, with some location information to roads@nhpr.org. Or, tweet us at @StateImpactNH.

Department Of Economic Development Lures Bangor Company To Pease Intern’l Tradeport

P.A.T. Products, which distributes specialty chemicals, plastic and raw materials, is moving to Pease International Tradeport. According to the Union Leader, the company was pursued by the New Hampshire Division of Economic Development.


February 27. 2013 9:56PM P.A.T. Products, an international distributor of specialty chemicals, plastic and raw materials, has relocated its corporate headquarters from Bangor, Maine, to the Pease International Tradeport. Leo Edward Coyle, the company’s marketing manager, and his family worked with Michael Bergeron, right, business recruiter with the New Hampshire Division of Economic Development.

Read more at: www.unionleader.com

Casino Could Bring N.H. More Costs Than Revenue, New Report Finds

Emily Corwin / NHPR

Charity gaming at Rockingham Park in Salem -- the most likely location for a high end Casino.

A new report finds that a casino may create more social costs than tax revenue, mostly because of the 30 percent tax rate included in the Senate bill supported by Governor Hassan.

“The tax rate set at 30% puts us in a situation where the social costs outweigh or come close to outweighing the revenue benefits to the state,” says Steve Norton, the director of the Center for Public Policy Studies, which produced the report.

The so-called “social costs” include unemployment benefits; welfare; arrests; corrections; divorce; health problems and bankruptcy resulting from an increase in problem and pathological gamblers.

Increasing the tax rate proposed in the bill would make a casino more profitable in the long term. However, Norton says, a casino developer would likely only agree to a higher tax rate if the initial license fee were reduced from the $80 million proposed in the Senate bill. Continue Reading

How N.H.’s Budding Video Game Industry Is Getting Gobbled Up By Boston

New Hampshire is attracting more young video game designers. The question is, can the state capture profits by keeping their companies in state? New Hampshire Public Radio’s Ryan Lessard has this story about young designers facing the allure of Boston: 


New Hampshire is the birthplace of video games. No, really. Just ask 90-year-old Manchester resident Ralph Baer. He is widely credited as the “forefather” of the video game.

Courtesy of Neal Laurenza

Screen shot of pre-alpha version of Bacon Man. Certain assets like character design have yet to be added.

“All right, take the hand control. My suggestion is that you do what I do. You hold it up against your belly. Put your hand on the English nob. Forget the horizontal one. It will go just straight up and down because as a beginner you can’t handle three controls.”

We’re playing the original pong game on the very first game console. He thought up the idea of making dots move on a TV screen 1966 while working for a defense contractor in Nashua.

Baer’s biggest legacy though, is helping create a video game industry that today has out-grossed Hollywood with a global revenue of $78.5 billion last year. New Hampshire’s economy, however, has never managed to reap the benefits from his innovation. Continue Reading

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