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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hassan signs speed limit bill for 70 mph on I-93 north of Concord

CONCORD – Commuters and tourists north of Concord will legally get to go a little faster on Interstate 93 now that Gov. Maggie Hassan on Tuesday signed the first speed limit increase in four decades.

As of Jan. 1, the speed limit will be 70 mph for about an 80-mile stretch of I-93 north of Canterbury up to the border with Vermont. ...

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CONCORD – Commuters and tourists north of Concord will legally get to go a little faster on Interstate 93 now that Gov. Maggie Hassan on Tuesday signed the first speed limit increase in four decades.

As of Jan. 1, the speed limit will be 70 mph for about an 80-mile stretch of I-93 north of Canterbury up to the border with Vermont.

Currently, motorists can drive up to 65 mph on this stretch of road.

The only part of the route not covered by the increase is about 5 miles that go through the White Mountain National Forest and Franconia Notch, where the speed limit will remain 45 mph.

Hassan said Tuesday that she was “cautious” in reviewing the bill but decided to support it due to the overwhelming bipartisan support it had received and because it was limited in nature.

“We must always be cautious when considering speed-limit increases in order to maintain the safety of our citizens and of visitors using our highways,” Hassan said in her statement on the bill (HB 146).

“The limited nature of the 5 mile-per-hour speed-limit increase in a targeted region of the state, along with the overwhelming, bipartisan support for the measure, makes me comfortable with signing this measure into law, bringing the speed limit more in line with the habits of our rural travelers.”

Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Dalton, said there was overwhelming support for the measure among his constituents.

“As the North Country’s senator, I represent 27-percent of the state’s landmass and much of the road that would see a change,” he said. “I spend many hours on I-93 driving the 100 lonely miles from my home to the state capital,” Woodburn said.

“Changing the speed limit on this quiet country highway makes perfect sense and respects the current reality and driving patterns of our citizens. We just extended a little more power to the people, and I trust they’ll use it wisely and responsibly.”

Rep. John Burt, R-Goffstown, posted on Facebook that the change merely reinforces what motorists are already doing.

“I already drive 70, oops I mean 65, honest and cars pass me like I am tied to a fence post,” Burt said.

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

Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, R-Manchester, came closest 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.

The state Department of Safety opposed all efforts to raise speed limits this year, and critics maintained that it sent 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,” said Rep. Kenneth Grossman, D-Barrington, during debate on the measure.

Hassan said she has faith that motorists will exercise good judgment.

“For their safety and the safety of others, I encourage all motorists to use the common sense that Granite Staters are known for and respect the new speed limit,” Hassan said.

Supporters say national studies fail to show an increase in accident rates from a 5 mph increase.

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

Had Hassan vetoed the bill, it’s quite possible that the Legislature might have overriden her.

The 292-65 vote in the House was well above the two-thirds majority needed to overcome a veto.

Only a few senators publicly voiced opposition when the vote was called.

Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, did say his GOP bloc had been mixed when members discussed the matter in private.

At the onset of the debate in May, Bragdon tried to lighten up the moment by referring to it as the “lead foot bill.”

Kevin Landrigan can reached at
321-7040 or klandrigan@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).