NH Senate Narrowly Votes Against Funding Commuter Rail Expansion Analysis

Senate members defy support of 110 NH businesses and 74 percent of residents by removing rail funding from House Bill 2018

Concord NH – Late last night, members of the New Hampshire State Senate defied the support of more than 110 New Hampshire businesses and 74 percent of residents by narrowly defeated an effort to authorize $4 million in federal funding to provide an in-depth analysis of the proposed expansion of commuter rail from Boston to Manchester.

A group of more than 110 statewide, bi-partisan business leaders, New Hampshire’s two largest Chambers of Commerce and Governor Chris Sununu supported including $4 million in federal funding in House Bill 2018 for a detailed financial, environmental and engineering analysis of the proposed expansion of commuter rail from Boston to Manchester. Sen. Dan Innis and Sen. Kevin Avard were the sole Republicans who joined Senate Democrats in supporting the funding.

“This vote to reject $4 million in federal funding, which would provide critical data needed to determine the viability of passenger rail expansion from Boston to Manchester, is terribly shortsighted and sends a negative message to New Hampshire businesses desperately seeking to expand their talent pool and fill thousands of jobs,” said E.J. Powers, New Hampshire Business for Rail Expansion spokesman. “It also stands in direct contrast to the states’ supposed effort to attract and retain young professionals and to develop a more millennial-friendly environment.”

House Bill 2018 is the amended Ten Year Transportation Improvement Plan, which included $4 million in federal funding for the Project Development phase of the proposed rail expansion project. This step would provide a detailed analysis of engineering, environmental, and geotechnical aspects, along with a firm financial plan for expanding passenger rail from Boston to Manchester. The analysis, which could be undertaken at zero cost to New Hampshire taxpayers, would not compel the state to move forward with the build-out of rail, nor obligate it to any future costs.

In August, Governor Sununu and the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Intermodal Transportation (GACIT), which is comprised of the members of the New Hampshire Executive Council, included the $4 million in federal funding for Project Development in the state’s Ten Year Transportation Improvement Plan. In March, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted to keep the funding in House Bill 2018.

The Project Development analysis would examine multiple aspects of the proposed Capitol Corridor Rail Expansion Project, which would extend passenger rail from Boston, Mass. to Manchester, NH with two stops in Nashua, a stop at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport and a stop in downtown Manchester.

New Hampshire Business for Rail Expansion, a statewide, nonpartisan business coalition that launched in January, consists of more than 110 businesses from across the state. In addition to business support, more than 300 individuals have signed a petition in support of rail expansion.

“Our coalition will continue to be a voice for the majority of citizens and businesses who are concerned about New Hampshire’s workforce and demographic crisis and are demanding the state invest in a modern transportation infrastructure,” Powers continued. “We will build off the momentum gained during this legislative session and continue to grow our coalition of bipartisan supporters.”

The NH Capitol Corridor Study, which was released in 2015, detailed the benefits of rail expansion. The expansion of rail to New Hampshire would welcome 668,000 weekday riders and deliver the following economic benefits:

  • 5,600 permanent jobs
  • 3,400 construction jobs to build the real estate development triggered by rail
  • 1,700 new jobs every year beginning in 2030
  • 3,600 residential units to support new workers
  • 9 million square feet of commercial real estate as a by-product of rail expansion
  • $750 million in real estate investment from 2021-2030
  • $220 million in reinvested worker earnings.

A 2015 Public Policy Poll indicated 74-percent of New Hampshire residents support passenger rail expansion.

For more information and to sign the petition, please visit www.NHBiz4Rail.com.