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Federal Grant Goes to New Hampshire to Replace Aged Bridge With One for Bicyclists, Pedestrians

Thu July 20, 2023 - Northeast Edition #18
New Hampshire Bulletin

The new 1,550-ft.-long structure will be completely separate from vehicle traffic and located just upstream of the Little Bay bridges that carry U.S. Highway 4/Spaulding Turnpike both north and south. (NHDOT rendering)
The new 1,550-ft.-long structure will be completely separate from vehicle traffic and located just upstream of the Little Bay bridges that carry U.S. Highway 4/Spaulding Turnpike both north and south. (NHDOT rendering)

Millions of dollars in federal funds coming to New Hampshire are earmarked for a major transportation infrastructure project that is not for motor vehicles at all.

The New Hampshire Bulletin in Concord reported in late June that the $20 million grant will go toward replacing the long-closed General Sullivan Bridge with a new two-girder superstructure to re-open as the only walking and bicycling access across Little Bay and provide a link between Newington and Dover.

The federal grant will be allocated through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program.

When the General Sullivan Bridge replacement project is complete, the restored link between the two southeast New Hampshire communities is expected to see close to 500 new bicycle riders daily, in addition to pedestrians and fishermen.

The funding was announced by New Hampshire's congressional delegation in Washington, including U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) — a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee — and Sen. Maggie Hassan (D), along with Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas.

Just last year, the state's congressional delegation announced a similar RAISE grant for more than $19.5 million for an infrastructure project in Berlin. The 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), which Shaheen and Hassan negotiated, significantly increased funding for the RAISE program.

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) will receive the money from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to support the crossing project in Rockingham and Strafford counties.

"This is great news for New Hampshire," said NHDOT Commissioner William Cass. "This $20 million grant will have a very positive impact on our state. Not only will it help ensure this long-awaited project to replace the aged General Sullivan Bridge with a new and modern bicycle and pedestrian bridge moves ahead to construction, but it will also help us solidify our highway program for the rest of the fiscal year."

An Old Bridge Long Past Its Expiration Date

The General Sullivan Bridge was constructed in 1934 and carried vehicular traffic until 1984. It closed completely in 2018 because of its deteriorating condition due to age and the harsh coastal climate.

The new 1,550-ft.-long structure — expected to cost $35.5 million — will be completely separate from vehicle traffic and located just upstream of the Little Bay bridges that carry U.S. Highway 4/Spaulding Turnpike both north and south. Without the General Sullivan Bridge, pedestrians and bicyclists are forced to take a 25-mi. detour to travel between Newington and Dover.

In his agency's cover letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Cass wrote the bridge replacement will improve safety by separating bicyclists and pedestrians from eight lanes of high-speed traffic. It also will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging a modal shift from automobiles for commuters and recreational users. And, Cass wrote, it will serve a diversity of users and connect nationally significant destinations.

New Hampshire's application materials to the federal government pegged the General Sullivan Bridge project as "an innovative response," that addresses the growing demand for different transportation choices and improves efficiency of the regional transportation network.

In a statement released shortly after the grant was awarded, Sen. Shaheen said, "This project will enhance the quality of life for local residents and tourists, as well as ensure the continued economic vitality of New Hampshire's Seacoast communities. I was happy to advocate on behalf of this project, and I look forward to seeing its positive impact on the Seacoast."

Hassan Also Wants Attention Paid to ‘High-Hazard' Dams

The Biden administration has placed a huge focus on infrastructure spending and has so far awarded funds from the BIL to nearly 35,000 projects, according to the White House.

With that in mind, New Hampshire Sen. Hassan also is requesting attention for another type of infrastructure. She has called on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review potentially hazardous dams operating under the authority of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Watershed Program and make safety recommendations.

The Bulletin reported there are currently 25 dams operated by the USDA in New Hampshire, and 75 percent of those are classified as "high hazard," meaning their failure would cause significant property destruction and loss of human life.

"The safety of downstream communities is of serious concern when there is a risk of failure from high-risk dams, and coordination between federal, state and local governments is critical to protect against and mitigate those risks," Hassan wrote in a letter co-signed by Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson.

Over the next five years, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will award $733 million through the BIL in dam safety grants to states and territories to enhance dam safety and rehabilitate or remove aging structures.

In June, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Commissioner Robert Scott said the state has $35 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for high-hazard dams that are municipally owned.

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