Publisher's Note: What about the west?
By Jody Reese
Coming back from the Seacoast the other day I was reminded how awful that drive was when Route 101 used to be a two-lane country road. The drive from Manchester to Portsmouth now takes about 45 minutes, but in the days of the two-lane 101, it took twice that long and was very dangerous.
The state solved that problem about 10 years ago by putting in the four-lane highway that now exists. That’s just great, but ever since then people on the West Side of Manchester have been asking when that part of Route 101 will be widened.
Unfortunately not any time soon. The widening has been in the state’s 10-year road plan for more than 10 years, but it always gets pushed off even though it’s been ranked the most important road project in the state. When the state got its federal stimulus money, there was some hope Route 101’s widening could be funded. But that money has mostly gone to resurfacing — including some on Route 101 — but not to widening, a much more involved process (and definitely not shovel-ready).
Part of the issue has been that the towns along the route haven’t offered to pay for part of the widening as the state has requested. The towns feel that their residents aren’t the cause of the congestion or danger on the road. While that’s partly true, local residents definitely use Route 101 and benefit from the ease of getting to and from the western towns.
There must be some middle ground to get this project moving. Perhaps the towns along Route 101 from Keene to Manchester could band together in a large taxing district to pool tax dollars for the project. Towns that opt in would see a widening of 101 in their town and those that choose not to would remain at two lanes. That would be a better option than tolls.
What is the role of government in a bad economy?
A year ago our country and the world at large stood on the edge of a financial crisis that threatened to wreck our way of life. Those are indeed strong words, but could we imagine how bad things would be without any bank lending and the collapse of our entire auto industry?
Fortunately, the Bush Administration followed by the Obama Administration stepped in forcefully and kept banks lending, kept the auto industry operating and pumped billions of new spending into the economy. The result was to stop the panic and to slowly but surely turn the economy around.
The federal government’s role in that crisis is very similar to why we have the Army Corps of Engineers. They exist to lessen the devastation of floods just as the different levers of fiscal and monetary policy exist to lessen the devastation of economic crises.
Just as we need those levees, dams and flood plains, we need government’s central bank and spending power to try and keep the economy in balance. It’s never perfect, but it’s better than getting hit by a huge economic flood.