Senate approves funds to study passenger rail

The idea of passenger rail service carrying people between Concord and Massachusetts got a boost Thursday when the state Senate voted 14-10 to pass a bill that lets the state obtain federal money to study the idea.

The bill, SB241, lets the Department of Transportation access federal funding to complete the project development phase of the Capitol Corridor rail project, which would bring passenger service north from Lowell, Mass., to Nashua and Manchester and possibly to Concord.

The idea has been discussed for years but was regularly blocked by Republican lawmakers who said passenger rail was too expensive to even study; the legislature’s switch to Democratic control last November brought the idea back to life.

Pressure from city officials in Hillsborough County, who say rail would help them develop jobs and business, helped put it onto the state’s 10-year transportation improvement plan.

A different idea to bring passenger rail to Nashua and Bedford has been floated by a private company that says it can connect New Hampshire to Worcester, Mass. It hopes to have service running south from Worcester to Rhode Island by next year, with hopes to expand north after that.