Commuter Rail

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About 130 advocates of the Capital Corridor Rail Project convened at the Nashua Library Monday night. Their goal: figure out how to get lawmakers to include rail in a 10-year transportation bill. 

Earlier this season, the House voted to strip the bill of $4 million of federal funds.  Now, rail advocates are hoping the Senate will reverse that decision. The money in question would go toward design and permitting to extend rail service from Boston to Nashua and Manchester.

Brady Carlson / NHPR

  Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess is hosting an event tonight to highlight a proposed commuter rail service between southern New Hampshire and Boston. 

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The New Hampshire House has voted down spending $4 million dollars in federal aid to explore extending commuter rail from Boston to New Hampshire. The money, which was tucked into the state’s 10-year transportation legislation, would have been used  to study how the state would pay for commuter rail.

Another Look at Commuter Rail in N.H.

Mar 8, 2016
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For years, advocates of commuter rail have pushed the idea of a passenger train connecting Boston with at Nashua and Manchester, and even possibly Concord. But commuter rail has always bumped up against one huge, seemingly immovable object:  money.  It's not cheap to build such a system,  roughly two-hundred-million dollars - and so the argument has long been that it's just not worth it, given all the other priorities New Hampshire has, including roads and bridges that need repair.  However, this year, supporters are continuing their efforts, bolstered by rising business backing in the Southern Tier.  And just recently,  they urged a House Committee to keep four million dollars in the state's transportation plan to fund rail study and planning. 

Railroad Crossing
Photo by Tim Cummins via Flickr Creative Commons

Passenger rail advocates are holding a news conference today in Concord. They’re hoping the state will begin a planning process for a rail line between Manchester and Boston. 

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A Massachusetts transportation official says "operator error" is the focus of an investigation into what caused a six-car passenger train to leave a suburban Boston station without a driver.

None of the approximately 50 passengers on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority train was injured.

The train traveled for about nine minutes - and through four stations - before MBTA personnel were able to stop it by cutting power to the electrified third rail.

Railroad Crossing
Photo by Tim Cummins via Flickr Creative Commons

  Two Democratic Executive Councilors are outlining a proposal they say could fund passenger rail service between Manchester and Boston.

Railroad Crossing
Photo by Tim Cummins via Flickr Creative Commons

Advocates for expanding passenger rail in southern New Hampshire are gathering in Nashua today.

The Regional Passenger Rail Summit will include presentations by federal, state and regional transportation officials about current projects and the economic impact of passenger rail systems.

Michael Izbicki, chair of the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority, says advocates are hoping more people will support rail as they hear about its potential benefits:

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

 

Gov. Maggie Hassan has signed into law a $271 million capital budget that includes money for 50 new beds at the state veterans' home for dementia care and for a new Merrimack County courthouse.

It doesn't include $4 million Hassan wanted for further study of a plan to bring commuter rail from Boston into Nashua and Manchester. She says it is critical for economic development and bringing young people into the state. Opponents say the benefits are overstated and the state will need to spend money subsidizing the project.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

 

Gov. Maggie Hassan has signed a bill that could help pave the way for public-private funding of commuter rail.

Efforts to bring commuter rail from Boston up to Nashua and Manchester hit a snag this year when lawmakers chose not to include $4 million in the capital budget to further study the proposal. Project supporters hope to continue exploring other funding options, including public-private partnerships.

Several Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation this year that creates a committee to study such funding for intermodal transportation projects.

Railroad Crossing
Photo by Tim Cummins via Flickr Creative Commons

A bill that could help pave the way for public-private funding of commuter rail is now awaiting New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan's signature. 

Efforts to bring commuter rail from Boston up to Nashua and Manchester hit a snag this year when lawmakers chose not to include $4 million in the capital budget to further study the proposal. Supporters of the project hope to continue exploring other funding options, including public-private partnerships. 

Railroad Crossing
Photo by Tim Cummins via Flickr Creative Commons

 

The conversation over the benefits and pitfalls of bringing commuter rail into New Hampshire will continue Monday at a forum hosted by the Business and Industry Association.

Senators rejected a plan last week to spend $4 million on an environmental and engineering study of rail, but supporters of the plan are pushing forward with their efforts.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The Senate Capital Budget Committee voted along party lines on Thursday to not spend $4 million to study building a commuter rail from Boston to New Hampshire.

Democrats proposed the measure, which Governor Maggie Hassan included the money in her state budget, saying a rail would boost the state’s economy.

Railroad Crossing
Photo by Tim Cummins via Flickr Creative Commons

 

Whether or not to spend $4 million to study the impact of bringing commuter rail service from Boston to New Hampshire is coming up for debate before a key Senate committee

The Senate Capital Budget committee will meet Thursday afternoon as it finalizes a proposal for capital spending projects in the next 2-year state budget. The capital budget also includes spending on projects such as a new courthouse and a new women's prison in Concord.

NHPR / Michael Brindley

In the wake of President Obama's recent budget proposals and the continuing threat of ISIS in the Middle East, the U.S. Congress will have a lot of important decisions to make.

To check in with the New Hampshire's delegation, we start by talking with our 2nd Congressional District representative. Congresswoman Anne McLane Kuster joined Morning Edition. 

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A new report finds that extending train service from Boston to Manchester could provide big benefits: more jobs, higher property values, and enhancing the state’s overall attractiveness. Still, skeptics doubt the numbers, both in terms of the number of people who would get on board and how much money it would cost.

GUESTS:

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State officials released the final numbers from a two-year study that looks at the economic impacts of extending commuter rail from Lowell, Massachusetts up through Nashua, Manchester and Concord.

The final report highlights the rail line’s projected economic impact to the area – more jobs, more real estate development and a rise in property values. It also reaffirms the findings from an earlier draft that a line from Lowell to Manchester offers the best value. 

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New Hampshire's Department of Transportation is set to release its final report on the effects of extending commuter rail from Massachusetts into the southern part of the state.

The New Hampshire Capitol Corridor Rail and Transit study has been ongoing for nearly two years. A preliminary report in November showed that expanding the rail from Lowell, Massachusetts, to Nashua would cost $120 million in capital costs and attract about 174,000 riders a year. That option would create an estimated 1,200 jobs.

In her inaugural address last week, Governor Maggie Hassan made the push for extending commuter rail from Boston to Nashua and Manchester.

"We must find a consensus way forward on rail that will build on our many advantages and help set the stage for a new generation of economic growth by keeping more of our young people right here in the Granite State," Hassan said. 

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According to the latest study of the so-called Capital Rail Corridor released last night by the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority running commuter rail from Manchester to Boston would cost $246 million dollars, and attract at least 650,000 riders per year.

Many in a standing-room-only audience in Nashua were ready to forge ahead with expanding train service, but the study will likely face a chillier reception in other parts of the state.

Sara Plourde

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.

New Hampshire is looking at whether to accept federal funds to once again study whether passenger and freight trains make sense for the state.  But many of the same concerns are coming up again:  that New Hampshire doesn’t have enough people who would ride the rails to justify the enormous cost.  We'll revisit this debate.

Guests

Railroad Crossing
Photo by Tim Cummins via Flickr Creative Commons

New Hampshire is inching closer to studying the costs and benefits of restoring commuter rail service.

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This week officials with Amtrak’s Downeaster marked ten years in service.

The train line between Portland, Maine and Boston includes several stops in New Hampshire. Ridership is up and there are plans to expand the service next year.

Peter Griffin is president of the New Hampshire Railroad Revitalization Association. He tells All Things Considered host Brady Carlson about the Downeaster's ten years in service.