New rail committee proposed

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Nashua still wants to explore commuter line from Lowell, Mass.

NASHUA – The Board of Aldermen this week heard a proposal to establish a new committee to explore bringing the commuter rail to Nashua.

Mayor Jim Donchess hopes the formation of a new study group will develop a feasible plan for the Gate City.

Nashua has been trying for years to bring a commuter rail service from Boston up to New Hampshire. Though those efforts have been stymied in Concord, Donchess said the proposed committee will look at accomplishing something.

“I think that what hasn’t been explored in enough detail, given what’s happened at the Statehouse, is trying to bring in service from Lowell to Nashua,” Donchess said.

An estimated $250 million plan to extend the rail service from Lowell, Mass., to Nashua and Manchester died last year as concerns about the cost overwhelmed the potential benefits of the service. Gov. Chris Sununu, a skeptic of a commuter rail line that goes all the way to Manchester, has said he would consider a plan just for Nashua.

Donchess said the state made a mistake in not taking advantage of federal funding to bring in the passenger rail service.

“I see it as a missed opportunity,” Donchess said.

Advocates say a commuter rail line would connect Nashua businesses with highly-skilled employees from Massachusetts and will attract younger people to the city who want to live in New Hampshire, but work in Boston. The mayor said a rail service would create jobs and increase property values here.

Opponents call commuter rail plans a boondoggle and unrealistic, worrying taxpayer money would be squandered without any of the economic benefits touted by supporters.

The proposal to form the new committee passed through a first read this week at the aldermen meeting. It now heads to Nashua’s Personnel Committee for review and a public hearing before it can be sent back to aldermen for a second reading and vote.