Thursday, August 03, 2017

Hey Big Spender

Photo: Fred McNeill/NHPR

The American Society of Civil Engineers released their annual report on infrastructure in the spring. The report covers the nation’s infrastructure (it gets a grade of D+) and provides a report on each state. New Hampshire received a grade of C-.

NH spent $43,062,914 on bridge projects in 2013. Despite that infusion of cash, thirteen percent of NH’s bridges are structurally deficient. That’s 492, to be exact. In 2016, 20 bridges were removed from the red list…..and 17 were added. We aren’t putting a dent in the red list; we’re just breaking even.

According to the ASCE report, NH has 146 high hazard dams, and has 20 sites on the national priorities for hazardous waste sites list. The report calls for an investment of $835 million in drinking water infrastructure over the next 20 years. The park system has $104 million in unmet needs, and we need to invest $198 million in wastewater infrastructure over the next 20 years. Due to the less than stellar condition of our roads, motorists average $363 annually in repair costs.

In 2016, the latest version of the perennial 10-year highway plan was passed. It calls for spending $3.8 billion on some highway and turnpike projects. The seemingly endless project of widening of 1-93, widening 101 in Bedford, expanding part of the Spalding Turnpike, and part of the Everett Turnpike. The plan “increases” spending for red listed bridges, assuming there’s any money left over from the highway projects. 

                                Photo: Concord Monitor 

The ASCE estimates that to fix the US infrastructure would cost $4.6 trillion. The Trump administration won’t be making that kind of investment in making America great again. Instead, Trump intends to add $54 billion to the already bloated defense budget. Trump has been talking about his $1 trillion infrastructure plan, but it’s all talk. There is no trillion, and there is no plan. Our crumbling national infrastructure is a threat to our security, but that doesn’t capture the fancy of the global imperialist crowd, who prefer to invest in weapons contractors and endless war. Infrastructure isn’t a sexy issue like legislating women’s reproductive tracts. Oppression – now that’s sexy.

There are 3,848 bridges in the NH DOT inventory. Some 80% of the state owned bridges were built before 1980. According to the ASCE, the “typical” design life of a bridge is 50 years. There are 650 state owned bridges that are 75 years old. The legislatures of the past 30 years have kicked the infrastructure can down the increasingly bumpy road, and as a result, the cost of doing the work will never be cheaper than it is at this moment. 

Governor Chris Sununu has just announced that $30 million will be sent back to cities and towns for infrastructure projects. An additional $6.8 million will be dispersed to towns for red list bridge repairs. It’s a start, but given the need, $30 million won’t go very far. The legislature chose to use the same formula they use for distributing gas tax monies, a formula based on miles of roadways and population. This is a one-time block grant, and the details and restrictions around how these funds will be used have not yet been made clear.

Ossipee has two of the top 15 red listed bridges. Number 8 on the priority list is the bridge over the Bearcamp River on Routes 16/25. It’s been on the red list since 2004, and according to the list, it will be repaired in 2018. Number 10 on the list is the relief bridge over the Bearcamp River on Rte. 16/25. It’s been on the list since 2004, slated for repair in 2018.

Osspiee’s share of the $30 million is $153,081.10. The town maintains approximately 83 miles of paved roads. They won’t have trouble spending the money.

Number 12 on the priority red list is the Conway Lake outlet bridge on Rt. 302/113. It’s been on the red list since 2010. It’s scheduled for repair in 2018. The covered bridge is also on the red list, but covered bridges aren’t included in the 10-year transportation plan.

Conway’s share of the $30 million is $217,101.73. According to the Conway Master Plan, there are 161 local roads, totaling 82 miles.

                                        Photo: Will Brown/ NH Coastal Adaptation Work Group 

Number 59 on the priority list is the Ellis River Bridge in Jackson, on Rt. 16. It’s been on the red list since 2011, and is scheduled for repair in 2023.

Jackson’s share of the $30 million block grant is $35,018.26. Again, they won’t have trouble spending the money; it just won’t go very far. It certainly won’t help that red listed bridge.

Albany is slated to receive $32,933.31; Bartlett comes in at $89,588.71, and Chatham $11,847.45.

It will be interesting to find out what restrictions will apply, and how the cities and towns will use the funds. I’m especially eager to hear what Hart’s Location is going to do with the $1,792.47 they’ve been allotted.

Published as an op-ed in the August 4, 2017 edition of the Conway Daily Sun Newspaper 

List of towns and grants:

1 comment:

Junior Mints said...

Disaster Capitalism on its way. The LOLitarians and GOP are KOCH heads. Let the infrastructure fail to the point some crisis is invented to turn it over to for profit corporations to own and we will be in perpetual servitude to the plutocracy.