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Punting: Merrimack Toll issue delayed again

The members of the House Public Works and Highways Committee agree that Merrimack can wait until next year to have its highway toll issue addressed by the Legislature. The people of Merrimack no doubt disagree.

On Wednesday the committee voted unanimously to kill a bill that would have eliminated one of Merrimack’s three toll booths on the F.E. Everett Turnpike. The issue should be considered only as part of the overall highway plan, not by itself, they agreed.

The bill had been passed by the Senate earlier this year. Its sponsor, Sen. Peter Bragdon, pointed out that new revenue from Exit 10 (where the Merrimack Premium Outlets are located) makes up for any revenue that would be lost by eliminating Exit 12.

Merrimack is the only town in the state that has three toll plazas, all of which require payment for entry and exit onto the turnpike. Its residents bear an undue share of the burden for the Everett Turnpike. That toll road benefits communities from Nashua to the North Country by providing residents and tourists easy access to the state from the Massachusetts border through Manchester and on to I-93. But Merrimack residents pay a far greater share of the costs than is fair or reasonable.

Merrimack commuters have waited years for some relief. Now they are told they will have to keep waiting. In the interest of fairness, we all should hope that Wednesday’s vote was done to put the issue on next year’s transportation agenda and not to postpone it indefinitely.

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