Nashua panel supports moving forward with new passenger rail effort
The Nashua aldermanic Planning and Economic Development Committee voted in favor of a proposed memorandum of understanding to partner with Boston Surface Railroad Company to create a plan to bring privately funded rail to Nashua. (KIMBERLY HOUGHTON/CORRESPONDENT)
NASHUA — An aldermanic panel is recommending that Nashua enter into a memorandum of understanding with Boston Surface Railroad Company to create a plan to bring privately funded passenger rail service to the city.
“For 10 years I have tried to get commuter rail built, and unfortunately it has fallen on deaf ears,” said Alderman-at-Large Michael O’Brien, also a state representative. “This is a truly homegrown idea.”
On Tuesday night, the aldermanic Planning and Economic Development Committee voted in favor of the proposed memorandum of understanding, which will now be considered by the full Board of Aldermen.
“I like the idea that this is a market-based approach,” said Tim Cummings, economic development director for the city.
Boston Surface Railroad Company of Rhode Island is in the early stages of planning to bring privately funded passenger rail service from Bedford to Worcester, Mass., with stops in Nashua and Lowell, Mass.
Vincent Bono, president of BSRC, told city officials that the southern New Hampshire route would likely have electronic ticketing and assigned seating, which he said would create a better experience for riders.
Aside from a federal railroad reinvestment improvement loan, private equity and venture capital would be used to help fund the project; he said it could cost about $1 million per mile to upgrade existing rail tracks.
“Our fares would be priced to be competitive with driving and parking,” said Bono. “… We believe that there is a certain subset of the commuters that drive down Route 3 and I-93 every day that are willing to pay that premium fare.”
He said the fare could be about 60 percent more than a traditional government-subsidized train fare.
Alderman-at-Large Dan Moriarty said there is very little to no risk in supporting the memorandum of understanding, which is not a binding document.
“I am not sure where to start because I feel like I am lacking so much basic information about this plan,” said Moriarty, noting there is no map, budget or schedule in place.
Bono called it a “first step” and said the city is not on the hook for any financial obligation other than to build its own station.
Alderman Brian McCarthy, president of the board, said he supports the plan, in part because it offers a northern terminus in Bedford that will provide service to the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, which he said is important to the airport’s health.
A memorandum of understanding is also being considered this week by elected officials in Lowell, Mass.