Four new lanes now to be in permanent use
By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, June 18, 2010
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- After driving though New England's first open road tolling lanes at the Hampton toll plaza Thursday morning, Gov. John Lynch said it was smooth sailing and predicted five-mile backups will be history.
"Sixty years ago the tolls were installed in Hampton," Lynch said. "Over the last 70 years we have seen traffic jams and congestion. Now those are a thing of the past."
Lynch, along with other state officials, were on hand June 17 for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony to permanently open the new high-speed lanes.
The $18.3 million open road tolling project included converting the inner six lanes of the now 18-lane toll plaza on I-95 to two northbound and two southbound open road tolling lanes allowing motorists with E-ZPass accounts to drive through the tolls at highway speeds.
Officials predict they will reduce traffic back-ups and improve air quality by reducing emissions caused by idling.
The lanes were opened for a test period during Memorial Day weekend and they were used by approximately 50 percent of the vehicles that passed through the Hampton tolls.
Lynch credited the Legislature and state officials, including Department of Transportation Commissioner George Campbell, for making the project a reality.
"It's great day for our customers," Campbell said.
Campbell said contractors worked around the clock last fall with 10-hour days and weekends to complete the work on time.
"This project should have taken two and a half to three years," Campbell said. "But instead in 10 1/2 to 12 months it got done."
Sen. Martha Fuller Clark, D-Portsmouth, called it a remarkable day for those who live on the Seacoast.
"Having grown up here I have experienced those traffic delays and traffic jams many more years than I would like to admit," Clark said.
Prior to the ribbon cutting ceremony, Lynch drove through the lanes with Andy Blacksmith, of "Greg & The Morning Buzz" on WHEB 100.3.
When asked if he felt safe riding with the governor, Blacksmith said, "I felt 100 percent save with the governor. We went under the speed limit at 60 miles per hour and went through the E-ZPass lane with no problem. It was amazing. I think it's going to be great for the local area as well."
To pay for the project Lynch and the state Executive Council increased the I-95 toll fare by 50 cents for passenger vehicles to $2. The increase took effect last July 1.
A similar project is in the works for the Hooksett toll plaza and is scheduled to be completed by Memorial Day 2012.