Hampton Harbor Bridge Back On Radar

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Replacement Project Placed on Secondary List

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, December 20, 2011

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Hampton Harbor Bridge [Staff file photo]

HAMPTON -- Proponents of one day seeing a new Route 1A Hampton Harbor bridge that connects Hampton and Seabrook got an unexpected victory last week when a feasibility study to look at a new bridge was put on the list of future projects by the state Department of Transportation.

Bill Watson, of the N.H. DOT, said the study is still not in the department's 10-year transportation plan, spanning from 2013 to 2022. However, he said, it tops a second list of projects that no longer fit into the 10 year-plan but would be included if additional federal funding became available.

Watson said the current 10-year plan has been shrunk due to lack of federal funding and some of the projects on the list were put on a second list. Watson said what this means is if the federal government continues to fund transportation projects at current levels, the projects on the deferred list will be added back into the 10-year plan.

An amendment by the Executive Council added the feasibility study for the bridge into the second list with a start date of 2013.

"Right now Congress hasn't taken up the issues of funding transportation projects, and we have been operating under continued resolutions for over a year and a half," Watson said. "The House and the Senate have different versions of what the transportation bill should look like."

Watson said the DOT scaled down the 10-year plan based on conservative estimates, which project at least a 30 percent loss of funding.

"If we do not see a 30 percent loss in funding, this deferred list would be moved up and funded," Watson said.

When the Executive Council adopted the deferred list, they prioritized the projects by year.

The Hampton Harbor bridge feasibility study was given a year of 2013.

"It was good surprise," said Watson, who is also the state DOT's representative on the Hampton Beach Area Commission. "There has been quite conversations that we need to look at that bridge. Why the council took that moment to bring it forward now, I don't know."

The Hampton Beach Commission has been vocal in the past of wanting to see a new bridge.

Officially called the Neil R. Underwood Memorial Bridge, the span is two lanes with a lift and a site of regular traffic jams, especially during summer months.

Some in the past have called for a feasibility study to see if the bridge could be replace with a new four-lane bridge without a drawbridge to improve traffic flow in the area.

Over the years, several bills have been filed in Concord by local legislators but were killed, including one in 2007 by Nancy Stiles, who was a state representative at the time and is now a state senator.

Another bill concerning the possibility of constructing a new Route 1A bridge was also killed that year. That bill, sponsored by Rep. Ben Moore, R-Seabrook, called for the state to secure a bond for a new bridge, to be paid by installing a tollbooth there.

Both bills were killed in committee because a new bridge is not in the state DOT's 10-year capital plan.
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