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N.H. bridge provides platform for Romney

 Mitt Romney used his appearance in Hillsborough, N.H., to criticize President Obama’s economic stimulus initiatives.

JONATHAN WIGGS/GLOBE STAFF

Mitt Romney used his appearance in Hillsborough, N.H., to criticize President Obama’s economic stimulus initiatives.

HILLSBOROUGH, N.H. - Mitt Romney pointed to a federally supported bridge repair project here Friday as part of his indictment of President Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill.

As the presidential hopeful strode out into the sunshine, a 19th century stone bridge roped off with police tape behind him took center stage. Renovation of the Sawyer Bridge, a “bridge to nowhere,’’ was paid for in part with $150,000 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to help restore what is considered a civil engineering landmark.

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Romney said the money was misused, telling supporters gathered at a nearby Ford dealership, “It’s not just wasteful spending, it’s wasteful borrowing as well. Our kids will have to pick up that obligation and what do we get? The bridge to nowhere,’’ he said to cheers.

Obama’s campaign rejected the assertion and said the president’s policies have helped create millions of jobs.

“When President Obama took office, we were in the midst of an economic crisis and losing 750,000 jobs a month,’’ said Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith. “The president’s policies, policies that Mitt Romney criticizes, helped bring the economy back from the brink of another Depression and we’ve now seen over 4.2 million jobs created over the last 26 months.’’

Although the historic bridge erected by laborers in the 1800s has not been used since 1988, many consider the span, one of five stone-arched bridges in this town, a tourist attraction that adds character to what is now a busy intersection. A newer bridge nearby takes traffic over the Contoocook River.

“This is not a joke. It’s the life blood of our community,’’ said Democrat Marjorie Porter, a state representative. “It’s part of our past and future.’’

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Town officials say funding for the bridge began long before Obama entered the White House. Hillsborough’s director of planning, Shane O’Keefe, said a large portion of the project’s $252,380 price tag came from the state Department of Transportation and a mix of local and federal funding in 2005. The stimulus money was granted in 2009 and the project was completed in 2010.

In 2004, the bridge project won the support of 28 present and former members of the Legislature who endorsed Romney in the GOP primary, according to WMUR.

Dennis McClure of Hillsborough said he thought the stimulus money was misdirected. The government “should have helped the people, not the bridge,’’ said the out-of-work logger holding a sign that read: “America has become a criminal enterprise. Vote them all out.’’

With a perfect view of the span, Willis Bane, a mechanic at Hillsboro Ford, agreed with Romney. “It’s not used for anything. In all the years I’ve been here, I haven’t seen anyone go over there,’’ he said. “It’s a waste of money, if you ask me.’’

Kathleen Pierce can be reached at kmdpierce@gmail.com. Material from the Associated Press was also used in this report.

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