That drive to Maine or the White Mountains might get more expensive. New Hampshire is considering raising its highway tolls — and banking on out-of-state residents to shoulder much of the load.
New Hampshire is considering its first significant toll increase in a decade, a 27 percent hike, or 25 to 50 cents, at most booths. The highest, at Hampton, would go to $2.50 for passenger cars. The state estimates drivers from Massachusetts and other states would account for more than half of the higher payments.
The proposed hike is proving contentious in New Hampshire. It could receive a vote as soon as next week from the state’s Executive Council, a five-member elected board tasked with approving certain state actions; the idea originated with one of its members, a Republican.
Republican Governor Chris Sununu has told New Hampshire media that he opposes the tolls but does not plan to stand in the way of the executive council’s discussions.
The state estimates that the toll hike could boost revenue by an additional $36 million a year and be used to help pay for road projects and upkeep. Last year, the state collected about $128 million in tolls.
But New Hampshire is assuring its residents that out-of-towners would bear the brunt of it. In a document detailing the hike, the state figures that drivers from out of state would account for 54 percent of the new revenue. And the plan comes with a leg up for frequent drivers on the state’s highways: Owners of electronic transponders issued by New Hampshire would get 10 free trips through the tolls after their first 40 in a month.
Owners of these state-issued transponders already receive a 30 percent discount at New Hampshire tolls. Similarly, owners of transponders in Massachusetts and Rhode Island get discounts at certain tolls in other states.
Officials in each state point out that drivers don’t need to be a resident to get their transponders and could theoretically get the discounts even if you were driving from a neighboring location.
For example, a northern Massachusetts resident who commutes through tolls in New Hampshire could receive the discount as long as they own a transponder issued by the Granite State.
That’s different from discounts aimed at specific residents of states or towns — such as a discount on Ted Williams Tunnel and Tobin Bridge tolls for residents of certain Boston neighborhoods and suburbs, or one in Newport for Rhode Island residents. Those residential discounts have been challenged in federal court in the past, with attorneys arguing they violate the constitution for out-of-state residents. The courts have generally upheld the discounts.Adam Vaccaro can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamtvaccaro.