Berlin, NH — U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and New Hampshire lawmakers were in Berlin on Friday to present $19.5 million in federal funding to the city, aimed to both ensure the safety of travelers in the town, and boost their economy.

With over 200 bridges and nearly 700 miles of highway in need of repairs in New Hampshire, the road and sidewalks in the state’s northernmost city will soon be getting a makeover. The roadways and sidewalks in Berlin’s downtown will be torn up in the coming years so the snowmelt system can be installed using waste heat from the Burgess BioPower biomass plant, along with later putting in new streets and sidewalks.

Buttigieg says the project shows an innovation that Berlin residents should be excited about. “You’ve got byproducts of the process in the form of that biomass, that wood, that would otherwise sit on the forest floor untouched. Now we have energy from the plant that would otherwise be vented off into the atmosphere, being piped into the downtown.”

Berlin was one of just 116 nationwide applications approved for federal funding through the Department of Transportation’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development grant program. Buttigieg said New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan’s advocacy for Berlin was vital in getting the funding approved under President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

She thinks the new infrastructure will allow Berlin’s economy and businesses to thrive by creating better access for consumers. “It’s going to encourage more residents and visitors alike to patronize main street’s small businesses.”

Buttigieg agreed, adding there will be “savings for taxpayers and utility rate payers by taking the heat that was just venting into the atmosphere and instead, using it to reduce the snow management budget of the city.” 

Existing businesses on Main Street have been advocating for this funding for years, including Adam Hammel, who opened his burrito shop, Exile Burrito, in the midst of the pandemic. “Having this project complete will not only increase entrepreneurs’ willingness to give Main Street in Berlin a chance but will increase the ability to draw people out to Main Street during our cold winters.”

The $19.5 million is the largest federal infrastructure investment the city has ever received. Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier says it will take two construction cycles to complete the project and said there is also a big emphasis on safety with the project as there are several vehicle crashes and pedestrian falls along Main Street every year.