New Hampshire Considers Commuter Rail (Again)

The Exchange

Governor Sununu called commuter rail a “boondoggle” during his campaign, but is now supporting a $4 million feasibility study of passenger rail. This has heartened supporters, who say it’s long past time for more robust service in New Hampshire. But opponents maintain there are still far better and less expensive ways to expand the state’s transportation options. We take a fresh look at our longstanding train debate. 

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Locals not sold on governor’s commuter rail plans

Legislators wary of cost for commuter services from Nashua to Concord

PAUL BILODEAU/Staff photo. State Rep. John Janigian was one of several state legislators who discussed their actions in Concord during a Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce’s legislator breakfast.

SALEM, N.H. — Gov. Chris Sununu may not find support for his regional commuter rail service plans in Southern New Hampshire.

Last week, the governor released a 10-year state transportation plan that includes $4 million to study constructing a commuter rail from Nashua to Concord. He previously had opposed spending money on a rail study while on the Executive Council and during his gubernatorial campaign.

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N.H. House and Senate Need to Approve Study for Commuter Rail to Move Forward


CREDIT CK4049 VIA FLICKR CC

Gov. Chris Sununu voiced opposition to a commuter rail in New Hampshire during his campaign. But now he’s supporting a $4 million feasibility study to look at how commuter rail could work.

NHPR’s Jessica Hunt spoke with rail expansion advocate E.J. Powers on what Sununu’s position change could mean for commuter rail in the state.

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Sununu now backs $4m commuter rail study


Chris Sununu is shown attending the annual picnic of the Coalition of New Hampshire Taxpayers held at the American Legion Hentry J. Sweeney Post in Manchester in July 2016. (Allegra Boverman/Union Leader File)

CONCORD — Gov. Chris Sununu, a longtime opponent of extending commuter rail from Massachusetts into New Hampshire, is now saying he thinks the idea is worth spending $4 million to study.

The House Speaker, however, says that’s not likely to sway a majority of state representatives who would ultimately have to approve accepting the federal grant.

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The Future of New Hampshire

Where is the state headed? How will decisions about energy, education, tourism, roads and agriculture shape New Hampshire in the years to come? Maybe we just don’t know.

No armchair futurist would be faulted if the malaise of modern times conjured dire visions of the road ahead. That’s assuming anyone today would dare make such predictive evaluations. The very concept in 2017 is somewhat ludicrous; go tell 2015 about the world in 2017 and you’ll get a clear reminder why. Still, in the intrepid spirit of our Granite State forefolks, off we go — into the Future of NH.

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New Hampshire May Get a Free Commuter Rail Line…and Not For The First Time

New Hampshire May Get a Free Commuter Rail Line…and Not For The First Time


The Amtrak Downeaster, which runs from Maine to Boston, making three stops in New Hampshire. CREDIT TODD BOOKMAN/NHPR

Commuter rail fans in New Hampshire received some good news recently. A private train company is offering to connect Nashua and Bedford to Lowell, Mass., with the promise that the towns won’t be on the hook beyond the costs of maintaining a station. If you’ve been following commuter rail issues in New Hampshire for the past two decades, this funding scenario may jog some memories.

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Nashua panel supports moving forward with new passenger rail effort

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.” 

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Commuter rail: Bedford officials intrigued by proposal to connect the town to Worcester, Mass.

Commuter rail: Bedford officials intrigued by proposal to connect the town to Worcester, Mass.

BEDFORD — With plenty of attention focused on Nashua surrounding a proposed privately-funded passenger rail service, Bedford officials say they are excited about the potential opportunities this new venture could bring to their town. 

Boston Surface Railroad Company (BSRC) of Rhode Island is in the early stages of a plan to bring commuter rail from Bedford to Worcester, Mass., with potential stops in Nashua and Lowell, Mass. 

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The idea of private passenger rail in N.H. is very unusual, but not impossible

The idea of private passenger rail in N.H. is very unusual, but not impossible

Boston Surface Railroad Co. hopes to open the line from Worcester, Mass., to Providence, R.I., in 2018. Its website shows this map, which doesn’t indicate anything about a line north to Bedford. Courtesy of Boston Surface Railroad Co.

It might seem crazy that a private company says it wants to operate passenger train service in New Hampshire’s Merrimack River valley – an idea that has been fiercely debated for decades – by running on a different company’s tracks.

It’s not crazy at all: Just look east.

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Privately funded passenger rail pitched for southern NH

Privately funded passenger rail pitched for southern NH


Boston Surface Railroad Company of Rhode Island is hoping to bring privately funded passenger rail service from Bedford to Worcester, Mass. (Kimberly Houghton/Correspondent)

NASHUA — 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 potential stops in Nashua and Lowell, Mass.

City officials will be presented with a proposal on Tuesday to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the railroad company and the other communities to promote and facilitate the plan.

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Counterpoint: The Positive Effects of Rail

Cafe La Reine

New Hampshire Magazine

It invites more people to stay, work, and play here

The Politics column in the July issue titled “Corporate Rail” attempted to cast an investment in commuter rail expansion from Boston to Nashua and Manchester as “subsidizing big business” simply because of the proximity of station locations to large businesses such as Dyn and BAE Systems. The author asks why the state should support businesses that are “doing just fine,” questions whether people from the Upper Valley or Lakes Region would ride the train, asks if it’s worth providing support for our regional airport or if it would make working in New Hampshire more attractive for young workers. As a 20-something small business owner with peers in Boston who long to live and work in the Granite State, I think I have a unique perspective missing from that column.

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Passenger rail would boost local economy

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Nashua Telegraph – In the early ’80s, I lived in the Boston area. The Red Line subway was being extended from Harvard Square to three new stations, ending at Route 2 near Arlington, Mass. At the end of the line, a large parking garage was built, including electric car charging stations. After the extension was completed, I witnessed rapid economic growth near every new subway station: new stores, restaurants and offices. Property values also increased.

In Nashua, we have been fighting to get Boston commuter rail extended to our city. I strongly believe that extending commuter rail to Nashua and also to the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport would bring rapid economic growth and attract new employers to our cities. If we built it, the businesses will come, adding jobs and improving our tax base

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Supporters of commuter rail in NH not giving up, despite funding cut

Rail Crossing

Union Leader – NASHUA – One week after the Senate voted against restoring funding for the New Hampshire Capitol Corridor rail expansion projet, supporters say they are planning the next phase of their efforts.

“I have been working on this project since 2007. We have jumped over some major, major hurdles to move the project forward, so we are not giving up,” said Michael Izbicki, chairman of the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority.

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Another View – Mike Izbicki: NH should take a step forward on Capitol Corridor Project

Union Leader – If you were a business owner considering making a critical investment in your business that could deliver tremendous returns, would you do your due diligence or pass up the opportunity? New Hampshire is faced with that very question this week as the Senate debates the fate of passenger rail expansion from Boston and the hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefits and the thousands of jobs that come with it.

The state Senate Transportation Committee is currently deciding whether to reintroduce the Capitol Corridor rail expansion project into the state’s 10-Year Transportation Improvement Plan. If the state wants to develop a specific strategy for implementing rail expansion, it must reinstate the project and authorize the use of toll credits, which can be used to access existing federal funds to pay for the entire project development phase at no cost to taxpayers.

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NH should hop on rail expansion

Nashua Telegraph – If you were a business owner considering making a critical investment in your business that could deliver tremendous returns, would you do your due diligence or pass up the opportunity? New Hampshire is faced with that very question this week as the Senate debates the fate of passenger rail expansion from Boston and the hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefits and the thousands of jobs that come with it.

The New Hampshire Senate Transportation Committee is currently deciding whether to re-introduce the New Hamsphire Capitol Corridor Rail Expansion Project into the state’s Ten-Year Transportation Improvement Plan. If the state wants to develop a specific strategy for implementing rail expansion, it must re-instate the project and authorize the use of toll credits, which can be used to access existing federal funds to pay for the entire project development phase at no cost to taxpayers.

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