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N.H. House Raises Speed Limit to 70 on I-93

Concord — The first increase in the speed limit on New Hampshire highways since the 1970s easily cleared the House of Representatives yesterday.

The 292-65 vote raises the limit to 70 miles per hour from 65 currently, and it affects about an 80-mile stretch of Interstate 93 north of Concord to the Vermont border.

Rep. Michael O’Brien, D-Nashua, said this was a good stretch of road to explore whether raising the speed limit poses a public safety risk.

“This is an attempt by the committee to look into a very discrete speed limit on a remote parcel,” O’Brien said.

But Rep. Christy Bartlett, D-Concord, said this is a waste of fossil fuels and could harm air quality in the North Country.

“Fossil fuels are not limitless; nor are they inexpensive,” Bartlett charged.

The change affects less than 2 percent of the 4,559 miles of state roads in New Hampshire.

The bill now heads to the State Senate that hasn’t approved a speed limit change for decades.

Rep. Kenneth Grossman, D-Barrington, said the bill (HB 146) sends the wrong message when the goal should be to increase fuel mileage and reduce unnecessary travel.

“To be encouraged to drive faster is to encourage me to burn more gas resulting in higher gas costs and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” Grossman said.

Supporters maintain that national studies fail to show an increase in accident rates from a five-mile increase.

And Rep. Brian Rhodes, D-Nashua, stressed the change doesn’t alter the reduced speed limit for the several-mile stretch of I-93 that passes through Franconia Notch State Park and Cannon Mountain.

“This is a rural section of the interstate that has been constructed to support a speed limit of 70 miles per hour,” Rhodes said.

The House rejected three, more ambitious proposals to raise speed limits on much longer stretches.

Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, R-Manchester, came closest of going further when the House rejected, 187-165, his plan to raise the limit to 70 on about 50 miles of Interstate 89 in the Upper Valley.

Vaillancourt’s own bill (HB 289) the House killed would have raised it to 70 for all interstate highways and up to 65 on the state turnpike system.

Most motorists ignore the speed limits and raising them system wide would recognize reality, Vaillancourt said, liking it to consent of the governed.

“To me it means if 90 percent of the people do something that is what they are consenting to,” Vaillancourt said.

Another bill would have raised speed limits to 75 on all interstate highways.

Rep. Candace Bouchard, D-Concord, said such a sweeping change could pose risks particularly in very high traffic and tourism areas.

The House killed those bills for widespread changes to speed limits by better than 2-1 margins.

Related

Letter: Slow Down, N.H. Legislators

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

To the Editor: I was horrified to read in the March 14 Valley News that the New Hampshire House voted to increase the speed limit on a stretch of Interstate 93 to 70 mph. Those lawmakers are surely aware that the consumption of gasoline increases with the speed of the vehicle. They are surely aware that gasoline is derived from …