The Exchange
1:27 pm
Mon January 13, 2014

DOT Commissioner, Chris Clement

A lot of government officials like to speak up about what they’ve accomplished, but our guest today, Christopher Clement, has been speaking up for what he has not been able to do. For the last two and a half years, Clement has served as New Hampshire’s Transportation commissioner, and during that time he’s expressed his frustration over numbers that he says speak for themselves. The department is paving 200 fewer miles of roads each year, there are 145 “red-listed” bridges and nearly 40% of our roads are considered in poor condition. And so, Clement has been hitting the road himself lately, asking for more funding. And although he won’t pick favorites, there has been lots of talk about a bill in the state house that would raise the gas tax for the first time in 22 years.

GUEST:

Credit nh.gov/dot

  • Christopher Clement – commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation. He previously served as director of Governor’s Office of Economic Stimulus

LINKS:

  • An article from the Concord Monitor on the DOT's needs, as well as what is being done in the legislature to address them.
  • An update on NH's winter roads budget.
  • An opinion piece about misspent highway dollars.
  • A presentation from the commissioner called "Roads to NH's Future.

HIGHLIGHTS:

Winter weather: Big storms are tough, but we’re dealing with it. Salt doesn’t work below 10 degrees, so roads can be more treacherous in those conditions. At 40% the way through the winter season, we have use just over half of allotted funds. “Mother nature decides.”

The budget: Right now, when the next biennium starts in July 2015, we will have a $48 million shortfall. What’s at risk are the number of roads in poor condition (now 37%), jobs in the DOT, red-listed bridges, and completion of the I-93 project.  Commissioner Clement remains ‘revenue agnostic’, but is firm that the funding needs to be found.

The gas tax: This year’s gas tax bill from Sen.  Rausch would bring in $28 million the first year. While this would not cover the entire NHDOT budget shortfall, it would make a difference. Going forward, New Hampshire might look at models now being tested by other states, such as Oregon’s VMT, which taxes the number of miles a vehicle traveled rather than amount of gas purchased.

Rail studies: Since 2007, the Boston Express’ fare-box recovery rate has been extremely high, 88% to the national average of 25%. Initial results of a federally-funded rail study in the NH capital corridor show positive ridership for Nashua and Manchester, will be finished mid-December 2014.

Rest stops: The renovated rest stop at Hooksett will open later this year. It was a public-private partnership success: all privately funded, and the state will see revenue. In the future, the NHDOT is looking to assess rest stops that have been closed on secondary roads, assess which are most necessary, and improve and re-open them.

Next step: “I’m just going to stay the course, I’m going to continue to educate and be out speaking to whoever wants to listen so they understand where money is, where the money is going, and that we are being fiscally conservative with it. I’m a fiscally conservative guy, I don’t like spending any more on taxes than anyone else does. I’m New Hampshire born and raised, and educated, so I get it, so we take it very very seriously, and the whole front office are conservative folks trying to stretch the New Hampshire dollar as far as we can go, but we’ve stretched it just about as far as it can go.”

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