At 6:15 every morning, Christine Suchecki leaves her house in Windham, NH, and spends the next hour and twenty minutes driving almost 40 miles to her job as a nurse in Boston. Her husband drives in a similar direction, to Waltham, MA. “We just look at it as either you’re going to pay financially in your proximity to the city, or with time in your commute,” Suchecki says.
Suchecki and her husband are among the more than 80,000 Granite Staters who commute down to Massachusetts each day for work. In fact, only people traveling between Maryland and DC commute across state lines more than Granite Staters. Together, New Hampshire residents earned more than $6 billion in income in Massachusetts in 2011. They pay around $250 million in taxes to the state of Massachusetts each year.
Because of traffic congestion, commuters who drive into Boston – like Suchecki – spend 53 extra hours a year in their cars on average, according to a report from Texas A&M University. Suchecki says most of the traffic she hits is near the Leverett Connector in Massachusetts, not in New Hampshire. But NHDOT’s Bill Boynton says near the Massachusetts border, I-93 carries more than twice as many cars as it was built to carry in the 1960’s. That’s why the state has embarked on its $800 million effort to widen I-93.
Boynton says about $163 million in new and ongoing projects will be starting up again this season near the border as the ground thaws. $250 million is still needed to widen I-93 between Salem and Manchester.
While Christine Suchecki is getting into her car in Windham each morning, Stacey Smith is stepping onto a train in Dover. She spends an hour and forty minutes getting to work in Boston each day. Smith says she took the job because of the train, and “wouldn’t even entertain driving.” The train is less stressful, she says, and more enjoyable because of what she calls her “train clan.” “There’s a subculture that emerges,” Smith says. “We’re there for each other.”
Smith spends $299 every month on train fare. She says she’d like to be able to visit friends in Nashua and Concord by train, too, though that’s a long and hotly debated topic in the state.
In February, Governor Hassan and the Executive Council approved a $3.9 million feasibility study of the Capitol Corridor Rail Project – which would bring a commuter rail line through Nashua and Manchester, to Concord. Around the same time, Nashua city Aldermen approved $1.4 million in spending for a six-acre tract of land to be used as a potential rail station.