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.

Emily Corwin / NHPR

A multi-year conflict between a Newington propane company and its neighbors comes to a head this week as state regulators decide whether the company can expand immediately, or must undergo a year-long evaluation.

On the surface, Planning Board and court decisions have favored the propane company. But opponents say despite apparent setbacks, they have succeeded in stalling the project, and extracting concessions.

SEA-3 Wants To Bring Propane In By Rail

Voluntary Amputation via Flickr/Creative Commons - http://www.flickr.com/photos/photopunk13/565984437/in/photostream/

Officials with Amtrak's Downeaster rail service say work is nearly complete on a maintenance project that's led to delays, cancelations and dips in ridership over the summer. 

Since May, crews have been working to replace roughly 22,000 railroad ties along the tracks between New Hampshire’s southern border and Portland, Maine. 

The project has caused hundreds of midday trains to be canceled; others have been delayed, and average daily ridership has dropped by five to six hundred.

The city of Portsmouth is trying to overturn a neighboring town’s approval of a controversial propane rail project. On Tuesday, a Superior Court judge heard arguments from attorneys on both sides.

The controversial Sea-3 rail expansion project would ship propane from fracking sites in the American West to their expanded Newington facility.  And it would run through Portsmouth. 

George Lane / Flickr/CC

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.


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. 

Emily Corwin / NHPR

  After failing to appeal the Newington Planning Board's decision to approve the propane company Sea-3’s expansion through that city's Zoning Board of Adjustment, a Portsmouth  staff attorney says they will proceed to Superior Court.

In an unusual legal maneuver, the City of Portsmouth filed their appeal in the Superior Court in June.  That appeal was stayed as the city pursued an appeal via Newington's ZBA.

In July, New Hampshire’s congressional delegation requested federal government provide an environmental impacts study. That request was denied on Tuesday.

  Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte along with Congresswoman Carol-Shea Porter want to take a closer look at the potential environmental impacts of propane rail traffic through the Great Bay Estuary. 

Emily Corwin

  After six months of deliberation, the Newington planning board has approved a controversial proposal to bring up to 12 railcars of propane through the Seacoast each night. 

The company, called SEA-3, wants to transport domestic propane from oil wells in Pennsylvania and elsewhere to the Seacoast, for export by ship.

But neighborhood groups in Portsmouth, Stratham and Greenland have opposed the rail expansion, voicing concerns about moving explosive materials over aging railroad tracks.

courtesy NH DOT and URS Corp

New details released by the Capitol Corridor rail study group during a public hearing Wednesday night point toward higher ridership than expected.

On Wednesday the Executive Council authorized a new rail study  — one that examines whether to bring trains to Plaistow.

This study will cost far less than one approved earlier this year, for $3.9 million dollars to look at extending commuter rail from Lowell, Massachusetts to Nashua and then on up to Manchester and Concord.

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.