The beleaguered residents of Merrimack might be on the verge of the toll-road relief they have long sought - thanks primarily to retail development some of them opposed.
As every Merrimack driver knows, there are three Merrimack exits on the F.E. Everett Turnpike. All three are tolled. If you live in Nashua, you can enter and exit the turnpike for local use at no charge. If you live in Manchester, you can do the same. If you live in Merrimack, you have to pay. Every time. Merrimack commuters are funding the turnpike that Nashua and Manchester commuters get to use at no charge as long as they don't pass through Merrimack.
Correcting this unfairness is long overdue. But politics is politics. Nashua and Manchester have more voters than Merrimack does. Thus they have more clout in the Legislature and on the Executive Council. Merrimack's politicians have tried for years to remedy the situation, but to no avail. Now there is a decent chance that some relief is just around the corner, so to speak.
Senate President Peter Bragdon's district was redrawn in the last round of redistricting. He now represents Merrimack. To no one's surprise, he has sponsored a bill to eliminate the Merrimack tolls. That will not happen, but Sen. Chuck Morse, R-Salem, has offered a compromise. His amendment to Bragdon's Senate Bill 3
would eliminate the toll booths at Exit 12. (Merrimack's exits are 10, 11 and 12.)
The state can do this, Morse says, because traffic to the Merrimack Premium Outlets has increased annual Exit 10 revenue from $260,000 to $935,000. Exit 12 revenue last year was $660,000. Hooray for bargain shoppers!
When the outlets were being planned, some in Merrimack spoke out against them. They didn't want the traffic. Now, because of that traffic, all Merrimack residents might get to join Nashua and Manchester drivers in riding a section of the pike for free. That would be the greatest outlet deal ever.