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Road test: report: N.H. rural infrastructure needs help.

In rural New Hampshire, more than 20 percent of the roads are in poor condition and the bridges aren't faring much better, according to a national transportation report.

These figures come as no surprise to officials at the state Department of Transportation, who are concerned that the current state of New Hampshire's infrastructure--rural or otherwise--may only worsen in the face of constrained transportation budgets both at the federal and state levels.

New Hampshire ranks among the 10 worst states in the nation for the condition of its rural reads, with 21 percent of them considered to be in poor condition in 2008, according to the report, which was released by the nonprofit transportation research group TRIP.

The report--which defined rural areas as all places outside the primarily daily commuting zones of cities with 50,000 people or more--said 39 percent of the state's rural roads are in mediocre or fair condition, and 40 percent are in good condition.

New Hampshire also ranked 11th worst in the nation for its percentage of rural bridges that are structurally deficient, according to the report, which analyzed statistics from state departments of transportation.

Of the state's rural bridges, 15 percent are structurally deficient, the report said.

A structurally deficient designation does not mean the bridge is unsafe for use, but that it has problems to address, requires more frequent inspections, and may restrict access to heavier-weight vehicles.

"We're not disputing anything that's there (in the report)--we recognize that our infrastructure needs a lot of work," said Bill Boynton, public information officer for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation. '"We started to catch up with the stimulus funding a couple of years ago, but unfortunately we need 10 years of that level of funding to get where we need to be."

The report also found that 15 percent of the state's rural bridges are considered functionally obsolete, which means they are older and not designed to modern standards, meaning they might not have adequately wide shoulders or lanes.

"It is clear that the state of New Hampshire needs to make these key pieces of our infrastructure a higher priority," said Gary Abbott, executive vice president of the Associated General Contractors of New Hampshire.

Nearly 30 public hearings for the next drafting of the DOT's 10-year plan will be held across the state in the upcoming two months, kicking off Sept. 12 in Charlestown.

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Author:Callahan, Kathleen
Publication:New Hampshire Business Review
Geographic Code:1U1NH
Date:Sep 9, 2011
Words:399
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