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No more cover charge for Merrimack

By MIKE MORIN - | Dec 2, 2019

Finally! Residents of Merrimack can access their homes without paying a cover charge. For 30 years, getting in and out of their own town cost them money. After New Year’s Day, Merrimack will gleefully be called Merrymack. It’s a start.

It still costs a buck to drive through the Bedford and Hooksett tolls. And about 30 cents a gallon more to buy gas at the Hooksett rest area on Interstate 93. A guy named Steve moved from New York to Merrimack in 1994. Until he became familiar with the area and in an attempt to avoid the Merrimack cover charge, Steve took Daniel Webster Highway north from Merrimack to Boscawen, then south on I-93 to get to his job in Salem. He was even known to occasionally toss a Fun Spot token into the coin baskets if there were no quarters in his cup holder. Those worked better than Chuck E. Cheese tokens, remember? And don’t act like you never did that. But Merrimack residents can be forgiven for an occasional toll evasion.

The question begs to be asked, what will giddy Merrimack folks do with that extra cash they won’t be giving to the state? Just getting in and out of town easily sucks $300 out one’s checking account per year. No other New Hampshire residents got double dipped by the state for so many years.

Cheryl told me she is considering investing her future savings into a few cups of Starbucks coffee. If New Hampshire divided last year’s $1.2 million Merrimack toll money among each of the town’s roughly 25,000 residents, every man, woman and child would receive $48. Think of how folks pumping that extra money into the Merrimack Outlets would keep the money local (kind of – there are mostly chain stores there) instead of sending it to Concord.

Scott C. commented on a local news site that he’s in favor of leaving the tolls in place at Exit 10 because of “the revenue generated by outlet shoppers.” Of course, Massachusetts Christmas shoppers won’t know to get to the outlets except through Exit 10.

Patti W. said, “They need one at the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border so we get money for all those Massachusetts people shopping tax-free in New Hampshire.” Patti, they tried forever to put up a toll station on the Salem/Methuen line. It never happened. That’s OK – taxes from the new Tuscan Village will more than make up for lost motorist money.

Another unexpected perk for Merrymack people is that E-ZPass transponder batteries won’t be drained as quickly with fewer hits for money every day.

As I understand it, once the tolls are rolled back, the toll booths will still remain. May I suggest that the state Chamber of Commerce take a cue from Manchester-Boston Regional Airport and staff those spots with Granite State Ambassadors, handing out pamphlets directing tourists to Able Ebenezer Brewing Co. or King Kone for a taste of Merrimack?

If you live in Merrimack, hug a New Hampshire Executive Council member next time you see one.

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