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May 23. 2014 11:02PM

Council OKs $4.1m for traffic warning system

CONCORD — The Memorial Day weekend traffic might be a little easier to take next year if a travel management system the state is buying works as promised.

The $4.1 million contact with Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, for the advance transportation management/traveler information system garnered unanimous approval at Friday’s Governor and Executive Council meeting.

Initially, councilors questioned why New Hampshire’s contract included modules that other states’ systems did not, including weather.

State Deputy Transportation Commissioner Patrick McKenna said he expected Vermont will follow New Hampshire’s lead. The system could eventually be expanded to include other New England states.

McKenna said the system will post road, weather conditions and travel times that are critical pieces of the notification system for safety and emergency personnel as well as travelers. With that information, he said: “We can divert (traffic) well in advance.”

Instead of a 10-mile backup, it might only be 2 miles, or less, he said.

The information and the possible diversion of traffic can help save lives, not just travel time for drivers. With the coordinated information on a problem and the ability to provide that information on highway signage, drivers could be warned to avoid an area, McKenna said: “Emergency responders can get there.”

In other business, the council:

• Approved a federally funded, four-month $45,000 contract with NL Partners in Portland, Maine, for production and broadcast of 50 radio spots for 12 weeks, starting in June, to promote safe driving around large trucks.

• Accepted the resignation of Superior Court Judge Kenneth R. McHugh, who submitted his retirement notice because he will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 on July 18. McHugh will have served as a district and superior court judge for 38 years when he retires;

• Confirmed the reappointment of Thomas S. Burack of Hopkinton as commissioner of the N.H. Department of Environmental Services;

• Confirmed the appointment of Eugene J. Forbes of Burlington, Vt., as director of the Water Division, N.H. Department of Environmental Services;

• Confirmed the appointment of Virginia Lupi of Corning, N.Y., as director of the state Division of Arts, Department of Cultural Resources.• Rejected a Department of Justice request for a sole source contract with a Bronx, N.Y., substitute medical examiner. Dr. Carolyn Kappen would perform autopsies when the state medical examiner and deputy chief are absent.

However, District 1 Executive Councilor Joe Kenney questioned the need for spending $40,000 a year for the fill-in medical examiner and voted “no,” despite Attorney General Joe Foster’s assurance the service was needed. “It could be while they are (both) away,” said Foster.

At the start of the meeting, representatives of member organizations of New Hampshire the Beautiful presented each of the councilors and Gov. Maggie Hassan with their blue highway trash pickup bags.

John Dumais, president of the N.H. Grocers Association, said N.H. the Beautiful Inc., which provides recycling grants to communities, helps schools with recycling equipment and programs and provides signage. It was presenting 25,800 blue trash bags, valued at $2,638.48, to the state Department of Transportation for use in the Sponsor-a-Highway Program.

Formed in 1983 by the grocers, soft drink and beer distributors as an alternative to a bottle bill, the organization continues to fight a bottle bill, with the latest effort being killed in February of this year.


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