DOVER — A group of regional planners just started working together to find options to alleviate congestion around Pease International Tradeport and help Seacoast commuters save time and money.
The Cooperative Alliance for Seacoast Transportation (COAST ), which is based in Dover, recently hired Anne Rugg to coordinate a Transportation Management Association (TMA), which will use state and federal funds to bring officials and businesses together to identify needs and solutions to reduce commuting hassles.
Rugg, who lives in Eliot, Maine, said she takes the back roads to avoid traffic, which has significantly increased in the past 30 years.
“Everywhere you go, there’s traffic,” Rugg said.
Rugg said the program will receive $402,000 each year for the next three years from the U.S. Department of Transportation, with matching funds from the New Hampshire Turnpike Authority. She added they haven’t created a sustainability plan, but could rely on “some revenue from membership dues.”
Rugg said they decided to focus on the area around the Pease International Tradeport due to the amount of traffic that uses the Little Bay Bridge on a daily basis.
To help, Rugg enlisted several members of the COAST board — including Scott Bogle, senior transportation manager for Rockingham Regional Planning Commission; Cynthia Copeland, executive director of the Strafford Regional Planning Commission; and Juliet Walker, transportation planner in Portsmouth.
Additionally, Rugg said Shane Malavenda, of Lonza Biologics Inc., which is based at Pease, agreed to help. She added she hopes this will encourage more businesses to participate in the process, which is in its infancy.
“We’re looking for an official launch in the spring,” Rugg said, adding there’s a lot of preparation and research they plan to do in the meantime.
Rugg said the group wants to analyze traffic patterns by assessing where area commuters and visitors come from, where they are going and what motivates them.
This will also allow time to craft a campaign to encourage area residents to take advantages of the available commuting options or find a need to organize new opportunities around the Seacoast, according to Rugg.
“After housing, transportation is the biggest expense,” Rugg said.
Rugg said she’s starting to reach out to employers in the region to talk about transportation issues and commuting options. She added she also plans to talk to communities to get links to commuting options — like COAST and ride share programs — on local websites
“It’s a very exciting project,” Rugg said.
Both Bogle and Walker said the new program picks up from the remains of the Greater Seacoast Transportation Management Association, which was established in 2003 and worked on similar issues for several years until its funding stopped.
As a result, Walker said one of the objectives of the new group is to ensure future funding is available.
“This is to look broadly at the region,” Walker said, adding individual communities will benefit from the exchange of ideas.
While the majority of area residents use the Spaulding Turnpike/Route 16 corridor, Bogle said he’s determined about 40 percent of Pease-area employees commute from the south and west — including from areas in northern Massachusetts.
As many rural areas may not have the base to support extending an existing bus route, Bogle said this effort will help identify opportunities to establish alternative options — such as carpooling networks and by using vans.
“I think a lot of people are not aware of the options available,” Bogle said, adding regional planning staffs have access to a great deal of information about options used throughout the country.
As a result of the widespread workforce, Bogle said officials at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard instituted the Clipper Connect program, which established bus routes to bring in employees from around the area.
Bogle said the various programs help cut down costs by saving gas, wear and mileage — especially for leased vehicles. He added area residents can also take advantage of federal tax deductions for monthly car pool expenses.
For more information or to get involved, contact Rugg at firstname.lastname@example.org or (603) 743-5777 x. 109.