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.

Elected officials voted not to move forward with the project development phase of the Capitol Corridor rail project, opting not to include $4 million in federal funds into the state’s Ten-Year Transportation Improvement Plan.

Izbicki said there are still alternatives being explored, specifically public private partnerships allowing private entities to work with public authorities to help provide financing for the rail project. The federal funds may also have an opportunity to be included in the next capital budget, he explained.

“You say we can’t have it, and we want it even more,” said Izbicki, who believes that rail will become a major campaign issue in the coming months. Rail, he stressed, is just one piece of the overall transportation needs in the state.

“Recent polling indicates 74 percent of our state supports this project. Businesses across the state support it,” Tracy Hatch, president of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. “We all deserve to have our state leaders see and understand the results of the detailed plan before they take a position on an issue that has such a critical impact on our future.”

Others say these efforts are misguided and work needs to start on anticipating new forms of transportation.

“Trains are a thing of the past. Rail doesn’t matter anymore – it is irrelevant,” said Nashua Alderman-at-Large Dan Moriarty.

Instead of investing $250 million into making rail happen, he suggested spending less than half of that amount on autonomous vehicles and infrastructure.

“The train is just way too expensive,” said Moriarty, maintaining that the future of public transportation is self-driving cars, or carbots – vehicles that navigate without a human pilot.

General Motors, Google and Tesla are fighting to get the market share for this, according to Moriarty, adding New Hampshire could lead the country in the rise of autonomous vehicles.

“We don’t need to worry or be sad that the money was not put in the budget for commuter rail. Rail is not going to be necessary,” he stressed.