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November 20. 2012 11:02PM

Road assistance program gets sponsor, could expand


The state Department of Transportation on Tuesday announced a new public-private partnership between the Bureau of Turnpikes and State Farm Insurance for sponsorship of the Motorist Safety Patrol, a traffic management program. The announcement was made at a news conference at the Hampton toll plaza parking lot. (JASON SCHREIBER/Union Leader Correspondent)
HAMPTON - Arvid Bacon recalls the time when a woman got a flat tire while driving through the EZ Pass high-speed lane.

The breakdown could have caused a traffic nightmare, but Bacon, a state highway maintenance worker, came along at just the right time in the orange Motorist Service Patrol truck.

Bacon notified the state's emergency management center, which then dispatched state police. As soon as police arrived, Bacon changed the tire and sent the woman on her way.

"She was scared to death being stuck out there with cars zipping by her at 65 mph. There's just barely a full breakdown land and you're stuck in there by jersey walls," Bacon said.

The incident is exactly the reason why the Motorist Service Patrol exists.

The traffic management program got a boost Tuesday when the state Department of Transportation announced a new public-private partnership between the Bureau of Turnpikes and State Farm Insurance for sponsorship of the program.

State Farm's sponsorship for the next three years will bring additional funding for operations and allow the state to possibly expand the coverage area.

The announcement was made a day before what is usually the busiest travel day of the year.

The Motorist Service Patrol was launched in May 2011 as a pilot program and involves a fully equipped, state-owned truck operated by state transportation workers who patrol 16 miles of Interstate 95 from the Massachusetts to Maine borders throughout the year. An additional 14 miles of the Spaulding Turnpike are covered during the winter.

The state highway workers who operate the patrols assist motorists in many ways, from changing tires, jumpstarting batteries, adding coolant, and providing a limited amount of gas to clearing debris from the road and shoulders and providing traffic control during incidents.

The program was a success and restarted in May 2012, assisting over 1,350 motorists through the end of September.

Transportation Commissioner Chris Clement said the patrol makes driving safer by reducing the number of secondary crashes that could occur in traffic backups created by traffic incidents.

"This partnership with State Farm Insurance allows the Department of Transportation to increase safety, improve the service, recapture some of the costs associated with operating the Motorist Service Patrol, as well as ability to possibly expand the service to the Spaulding and FE Everett Turnpikes, and I-93," Clement said.

The sponsorship will also allow the state to add informative highway signs indicating patrol areas along the route.

In addition to the new partnership in New Hampshire, State Farm sponsors motorist assist patrols in eight other states. This is the first in New England.

"We are convinced that this is a worthwhile investment in the state of New Hampshire, allowing us to protect lives and property in the communities where we live and do business," said Patrick Smith, a State Farm field consultant.

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Jason Schreiber may be reached at jschreiber@newstote.com.

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