New Hampshire Publishes First-Ever Citizen-Drafted Long-Range Plan

New Hampshire DOT Commissioner Carol Murray accepted the first citizen drafted long-range statewide transportation plan. The citizen plan, drafted by a 24- member Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) chaired by Lew Feldstein, President of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, is the result of almost two years of committee study, community outreach and deliberations.

On June 9, 2006 New Hampshire DOT Commissioner Carol Murray accepted the first citizen drafted long-range statewide transportation plan. The citizen plan, drafted by a 24- member Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) chaired by Lew Feldstein, President of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, is the result of almost two years of committee study, community outreach and deliberations. The plan was supported by a consulting team consisting of Project for Public Spaces and Wilbur Smith Associates and will be integrated into the formal state plan submitted to FHWA in the fall of 2006.

Commissioner Murray charged the panel in October 2004 with developing a transformational, customer-driven transportation plan for New Hampshire “to establish strategic direction for future investment in, and management of, state transportation assets over the next 20 years.” In particular Commissioner Murray directed the committee to “explicitly connect land use and transportation decisions and practices to help New Hampshire communities better protect their quality of life and community character while growing and adapting to change.”

“New Hampshire is a small, beautiful, but threatened state,” begins this unique citizen plan. “The problems of growth and development are upon us. Sprawl, congestion and traffic jams are no longer something we read about in distant communities. They are issues of local concern. Transportation is now the stuff of dinner (and breakfast) conversation, and it is not a pleasant discussion. The time has come to act.”

“Transportation is not an end in itself; its purpose is to serve common community aspirations for a better quality of life. Unfortunately, transportation is increasingly becoming a threat to quality of life in New Hampshire, not its handmaiden. Unless forceful action is taken now to reverse this trend, our quality of life will deteriorate. This is particularly true with respect to three of our greatest assets: our small town character, the prosperity of our growing small cities and the beauty of our great outdoors.”

The citizen plan is specific in its endorsement of Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS), which it calls “Common Sense Solutions.” At the statewide scale it observes that “we need to address transportation as a system. The Department of Transportation does not control the entire transportation system….Other state agencies also have a significant amount of buying power for transportation, usually to assist in meeting the needs for the large portion of our population that does not drive—the young, the elderly, low-income populations and the disabled….A more comprehensive, statewide initiative is needed encompassing all sources and uses of public and private transportation funding.”

The plan explicitly states that the Department needs partners to achieve success. “Unless we change the way we do business,” the plan warns, “our transportation network will not be able to serve future growth. Absent cooperative action at all levels of government, as a state we may be forced to choose between either (1) keeping our present system safe but increasingly congested, or (2) addressing congestion at the expense of system maintenance and preservation needs. Both of these choices are unacceptable.”

In the face of this challenge the plan lays out a positive long-range transportation vision for the state. “In the year 2030, transportation in New Hampshire will enhance environmental quality, promote sustainable economic development and land use, and preserve the state’s unique character and quality of life. Transportation in New Hampshire provides safe and secure mobility for all of the state’s residents, visitors and goods movement; is well maintained, efficient and reliable; and provides seamless interstate and intrastate connectivity.”

To achieve this vision the plan lays out some “Common Sense Solutions,” -- principles to guide transportation problem-solving “the New Hampshire way:”

  • The project satisfies the purpose and need as agreed by a full range of stakeholders.
  • The project development process is tailored to the circumstances and examines multiple strategies to address the purpose and need.
  • The selected strategy is in harmony with the community and preserves environmental, scenic, aesthetic, historic, and natural resource values
  • Faster, better and more efficient strategies win over bigger, slower and more expensive.

The plan pays particular attention to protection of traditional town centers where Main Street is most often a state highway. “Flexibility in design, in travel speeds, and in allowable uses should dictate when planning for people, cars and freight in our historic town centers. There are no set standards in deciding these issues….Instead, we should let the context decide, reducing design speeds as necessary.”

The plan recommends fighting congestion by focusing on demand-side as well as supply-side strategies. “Sometimes the best way to fight congestion is to remove trips from the state system. We can do a better job of keeping traffic off state highways by increasing the connections of local roads, and otherwise restoring and protecting the traditional street grids of our cities and towns.”

While acknowledging that some people like cul-de-sacs and disconnected streets because they eliminate through-traffic, the plan offers a compromise: “connected streets also reduce traffic, by diffusing it across the network, and can lower speeds through flexible street design…Good neighborhood street design uses a combination of interconnected streets and good cul-de-sacs (smaller, residential circles that don’t create long, dead-end streets). The point is to avoid channeling traffic onto a single road (usually a state highway) that cannot support it.”

Lew Feldstein, CAC chair, stated in presenting the plan to NHDOT, “Transportation planning is too important to leave to transportation planners… as Commissioner Murray said in our first meeting, if you don’t connect land use and transportation, both will fail.”

The plan has already received national attention. “New Hampshire is providing national leadership on how to build communities as well as roads and highways,” said Tom Warne, a nationally known transportation consultant and former Executive Director of the Utah Department of Transportation. “As transportation leaders look for new ways to get close to their customers, they are watching New Hampshire as a model to follow.”

Members of the CAC included representatives drawn from business, transportation, governmental, regional planning, environmental and community-development organizations. The full plan, minutes of committee meetings and press releases can be found at

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