MERRIMACK — Drivers will celebrate the new year by getting to travel on the Exit 11 north and south side ramps in town off the F.E. Everett Turnpike without having to pay a toll.
The Executive Council and Gov. Chris Sununu made that decision official with a unanimous vote Monday to reduce the toll rate at the ramp toll from 50 cents down to zero.
The cost for those with an E-ZPass transponder has been 35 cents.
Sununu, a two-term Republican, had urged the council last month to take this step.
“We pushed the council to move and it’s really the right thing to do. I’m delighted they have done this,” Sununu told reporters after the meeting.
Executive Councilor Debora Pignatelli, D-Nashua, said she’s been trying to give Merrimack motorists relief since she first joined the council in 2004.
“I didn’t do it on my own and would like to thank people who were with me every step of the way,” Pignatelli said.
She had proposed the council make this ramp toll change next July 1 but a council majority supported moving it up to Jan. 1.
State Sen. Shannon Chandley, D-Amherst, has authored a bill (SB 300) to eliminate the toll at Exit 11; that measure will be taken up by the House of Representatives early on during the 2020 session.
Transportation Commissioner Victoria Sheehan said the revenue loss from eliminating the ramp toll is “not significant” because it also means the toll plaza will no longer have to be manned.
She said full-time turnpike employees who work at that plaza will be reassigned to other locations.
This move will result in fewer hours for some part-time toll takers, Sheehan said.
“I would be concerned fiscally if we did eliminate other ramp tolls but this is manageable without our turnpike budget,” Sheehan told the council.
The council and governor do not have the authority to eliminate the toll plaza; this can only be done by an act of the Legislature.
But the council does set the rates charged to motorists at all these tolls.
House Republican Leader Dick Hinch, R-Merrimack, also was pleased at the council’s action.
“I am extremely pleased the Council took up this vote today and voted to effectively eliminate the tolls at Exit 11 in Merrimack. This toll relief project has been in the works for 20 years,” Hinch said. “It has been a priority of current and former Merrimack state representatives, as well as numerous town selectmen & town councilors. I sincerely thank Governor Sununu for providing the leadership and taking the initiative to finally eliminate these tolls, which provided very little state revenue but have been an extreme burden to the citizens of Merrimack.”
There were ramp tolls at all three Merrimack exits until 2014, when the state eliminated the toll at Exit 12 (Bedford Road).
Ramp tolls will remain at Exit 10 which leads to Industrial Drive, which serves Fidelity, the Merrimack Premium Outlets and several major businesses including Anheuser-Busch.