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Commuter Rail in New Hampshire


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Laying ground for rail service

MBTA Commuter Rail into Boston

By James Vaznis, Globe Staff, 1/29/2004

Boston Globe article

The New Hampshire state Senate is considering a bill that would officially designate a parcel of land at the intersection of the Daniel Webster Highway and Spit Brook Road in Nashua as the site of a train station and park-and-ride lot.

Usually, a right-of-way commission determines if such a proposal is a public necessity. But many local leaders and residents in southern New Hampshire fear commission members might be biased against commuter rail service and could make an unfavorable recommendation in the coming months.

The group is suspicious about the right-of-way commission's motives because its three members were appointed by the state Executive Council, which has expressed apprehension about commuter rail and refused to allocate money in fall 2002 to extend a consulting contract related to the Nashua commuter rail station.

After an emotionally charged public hearing on the commuter rail station in Nashua last July, several people who attended the session said they believed the right-of-way commission embarked on a line of questioning that at times tilted toward building a case to reject the project, even though none of the members said he was against commuter rail service.

"For three people who apparently don't share the city's interest in reinstituting rail to thwart [that effort] is wrong," Nashua Mayor Bernie Streeter said.

Of particular concern was the amount of time spent discussing -- some rail proponents would say debating -- the merits of taking the land off the tax rolls for a commuter rail project and the appropriateness of subsidizing train fares with taxpayer dollars....

...The commuter rail complex proposed under the Senate measure is the same as the facility suggested previously by state transportation officials. It would be built initially as a park-and-ride lot for bus service and carpooling and would accommodate about 1,000 vehicles. Most of the land is owned by New Hampshire Chemicals and is near a commercial and retail area, which includes Best Buy, Old Navy, and the Pheasant Lane Mall.

The state transportation department envisions a complex large enough for a coffee shop, a dry cleaners, and a day care center.

The bill would make a legislative finding that justifies such a facility because it would reduce traffic on state highways, improve air quality, and foster economic development. The $6.1 million project would qualify for 80 percent reimbursement from the federal government, with some money already allotted, and it would cost the state $738,000 in this fiscal year and $460,000 in the next fiscal year.... The rest of the article...

James Vaznis can be reached at [email protected]

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There's something fishy going on with rail in Cow Hampshire. They needed to pony up some pittance ($60K or maybe it was $16K) for their part of the Montreal->Boston highspeed study and said they didn't have it. Mass., Vermont, and Quebec were all ready with funding and NH balked. NH would probably see the most benefit from the line. I just don't get it.

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Nationally alot of influential politicians like Ton DeLay are really against rail. In Houston it's like pulling teeth to get there first real transit line built. Anyway the rail haters forced them to use funds from the highway fund and touched off lawsuits. In spite of this the expansion of this line will happen because it makes sense.

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I know some people who commute form NH to Boston. I think they eat valium for breakfast instead of sugar pops. NH benefits so much from the influx of taxpayers moving there from MA. Eventually they will choke on their own traffic without rail, it's really bad already. Even the expansion of rt 3 won't be much help. There already are 8 lanes I95, 6 to 8 lanes I93, and soon to be 6 lanes rt 3, not to mention many smaller roads between Boston and NH, and they are all wall to wall except on tuesday evenings between midnight and 4AM. NH is a republican state, and funding rail is almost considered communist, but it will happen eventually.

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NH is a republican state, and funding rail is almost considered communist, but it will happen eventually.

Well New Hampshire's misguided brand of Republican/Libertarianism is only possible when you are next door to a wealthy "communist" state like Massachusetts. ;)

I drove up rt.3 yesterday and at about 129 in Billerica there was traffic backed up to Westford or Tyngsboro because of a fender bender. Imagine being stuck in standstill traffic with at least an hour more to drive. :blink: Not how I want to start and end my day.

Also the site in the area of Spit Brook and Daniel Webster is currently an old chemical plant at the end of an underused dead end street. The intersection is very busy and the surrounding area has some of the highest concentrations of apartment buildings in the city. The other sites off E. Hollis street are also near well established, dense areas with the land to build so-called "Smart Growth" projects.

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  • 2 months later...

Supreme Court Rules Highway Money Just for Hiways

David Darman, 2004-04-19

New Hampshire's Supreme Court ruled today that the state constitution won't allow gasoline tax money to be used on passenger rail projects.

New Hampshire Public Radio's David Darman has more.

The ruling is a victory for NH's Motor Transport Association, which brought the suit after the state used gas tax money on the Nashua Commuter Rail project.

The association based its claim on a constitutional amendment that dates back to 1938.

That amendment states that gas taxes will be spent on highways and nothing else.

Bob Scully is president of the New Hampshire Motor Transport Association. He says the state practice of using highway funds for rail had to be stopped. There's precedents that were being established there. we thought they were illegal. the courts agreed with us. we're not opposed to rail. If the rail interests want to build them, then we just suggest they find another way to pay for them.

The ruling sets back the state Transportation Department's plan to bring commuter rail service to Nashua. With highway fund money unavailable, state lawmakers now have to look for other funding sources for rail.

Transportation commissioner Carol Murray says she's aware the state's budget is too tight now to pay for rail costs. Looking to the general fund in the state coffers to fund the nashua project or any rail project, i don't see as a really viable possibility. but clearly, with this decision out in the state, clearly ...discussions with the legislature will occur.

DOT had hoped the Nashua project would be part of an intermodal transportation network. The network would consist of highways, intercity buses, and trains.

Tom Irwin of the New Hampshire chapter of the Conservation law foundation says this transportation mix is necessary as the state's population grows. If we simply continue investing in highway expansion, congestion always returns. so, its not a sustainable solution. we do need some form, some source of funding to assist in that to find more sustainable approaches.

New Hampshire's transportation mix may one day look the way officials envision it. In the meantime, the latest Supreme Court decision keeps highway money where its been for generations.

Its paying for highways.

From New Hampshire Public Radio

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  • 2 months later...

The NH Supreme Court recently ruled that NH's gas tax funds cannot be used on non-road projects, creating a major setback for the current proposal to bring rail at least to Nashua. Nashua is pushing ahead with it's plans however, and they have identified a place for the station.

See this site: http://www.nashuarpc.org/commuterrail/

Portsmouth is also in the early stages of a feasibility study to bring rail there, it is not clear if they would try to get the T up there, or Amtrak, or some new service provider. The Portsmouth service would be an extension northward of the T's Newburyport line. Currently Amtrak's Downeaster service to Maine passes just to the west of Portsmouth with a station in Dover.

Nashua service is an extension of the T's Lowell commuter line. Eventual service to Manchester would be a further extension of this Nashua line. There was service in this corridor as far north as Concord until 1967. And there was a federal demonstration project in this corridor between 1980 and 1981. The service had high ridership considering it were only 2 round trips per day. The population of southern New Hampshire has increased considerably since the 1980-81 project.

There is also a proposal for a high speed rail line that would run between Boston and Montreal via Lowell, MA; Nashua, NH; Manchester, NH; Concord, NH; White River Junction, VT; Montpelier, VT; and Burlington, VT. New Hampshire is currently holding up the project by not making funds available for their portion of the feasibility study.

See this site: http://www.bostonmontrealhsr.org/

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I don't believe I'd like New Hampshire after all the things I hear of the place.

New Hampshire is a great place actually. The key great thing about it is the taxes, that's what is drawing so many Massholes up there. Although the low taxes can get in the way of progress. We'll probably see a wholesale change in the state's tax system before long. The education funding is way out of whack, and as you can see, transit funding is non-existant. The state eschews a lot of federal money, much of it's roadway infrastructure is supported by gas taxes and tolls.

It's government structure is a little odd too. It has a part time legislature, and a 2 year term for the governor. Basically the governor is always in campaign mode making tough policy decsions hard to make.

The natural beauty of the state is undeniable, and it has some stunning cities and towns. The influx of Massholes is creating a sprawl problem in the southern part of the state however. They really need to get their act together soon if they are to protect the landscape in southern NH.

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NH was bigger in colonial times than it was in the early 20th century because of the collapse of New Englands farm economy but has developed a great tourist industry. It's a place where alot of people in New England go on vacation, including the govenor of Massachusetts, to ski or rent cottages on lakes. I can't imagine what people are saying about the place besides the presense of alot of Republicans living in trailer parks.(jk?) They are actually much more libertarian (this is NE) so they can't be counted on to vote the party ticket. In the south is the Boston suburbs, the center is vacation land with moutains and lakes and the extreme north that touches Canada, is one of the most rural parts of the United States.

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As for the NH Supreme Court ruling regarding the gas tax... they are just interpreting current law. The Legislature can act to allow the gas tax to be used for other transit purposes if it decides to by changing the laws.

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NH is a very republican state. The population is growing pretty fast, and the south and coastal areas are sprawling as much as anywhere in the US, with the blessing of the NH government. Problem is, many of the jobs are in MA as is the money so as more people move there to avoid income tax and sales tax, the more roads are needed to get them to work. Eventually they will have commuter rail out of necessity. NH People working in my office near Boston say it is a 1.5 hour trip each way to their tax free haven. Saving the wear and tear on their cars alone would pay for new rail service. Its sort of funny, because state taxes in MA are about average for the USA, and NH taxes when taken together are lower than MA but not by that much.

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  • 3 months later...
  • 1 month later...

Nashua OKs bond for railroad station

By PETER WARD, MediaNews | December 22, 2004

NASHUA Nashua officials took a giant step closer to a railroad station for the proposed $70 million Lowell-to-Nashua rail line extension last week when the Board of Aldermen voted 14-1 to endorse a mechanism to pay for the commuter station within its boundary.

By allowing a special incremental tax district, including the station and retail in a concentrated area, the special district could raise revenue and allow the city to float a bond for $14 million the amount New Hampshire needs to trigger release of $25 million to $56 million in federal funds earmarked for the project.

"They cleared a logjam by identifying a way to pay the matching funds, so now we can go to Department of Transportation and say, 'OK, the city will pay the matching,'" said Stephen Williams, executive director of the Nashua Regional Planning Commission.

Though the location hasn't been selected, city officials have focused on a site near Spit Brook Road.

Nashua's action marks a reversal.

In April, the New Hampshire Supreme Court dealt the project a blow, saying the state was barred from using a proposed increase in the gasoline tax to pay for the project. In 2002, the state's Executive Council voted against paying for an environmental study. Williams said some changes in personnel on the council could bode well for the project.

The line's extension would require adding a second track along part of the Merrimack River. It's seen as a way to alleviate traffic on local highways and reduce parking congestion at Lowell's Gallagher Terminal.

From The 1590 Broadcaster

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  • 1 month later...

"My city already has one,the only one in the state:D

, i would think Manchester would get one soon, i mean it is huge compared to portsmout and dover (its a shame Portsmouth never grew large )"

I don't think size of the city has anything to do with who has train serive, the reason why dover has train service is because the train comes from portland and dover is right on the train tracks, portland wanted the train service back in the city, so thats why the train is there for now at least.

it wouldnt make sense for the train to go from portland to manchester then down to boston.

It took over 10 years to get train service back to portland, there are so many things to cover funding, track upgrades, property access, who lible etc, so nashua might have alot to do before they could get service, hopefully the state can back them.

Ya it doesn't seem new hampshire at the state level is to supported of train service.

they have made it somewhat clear they don't want to help the downeaster, and it basically falls into maines and the federal hands for funding. i read they wanted to covert money that could be used for the downeaster to other projects? The majority of people who ride the train are from new hampsire too, it's great commuting tool, for college kids and workers. Anyways more drivers off the road is a good thing.

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The Downeaster is at least a start. In support of the state I'd have to say that they are just being cautious, but I do believe that a little funding would be in order. The only current stops (in NH) are Dover, Durham, and Exeter, and I think that's all. I've ridden it to Boston, and I see a lot of potential in train service for the state, especially with the growth.

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  • 2 weeks later...

This article written by the mayor of Nashua talks about the first leg of the commuter rail expansion from Lowell into Nashua starting in 2007 with a station at East Spit Brook as part of a larger development.

Commuter-rail project gathers steam

By BERNIE STREETER, Mayor of Nashua

The proposed Nashua-to-Lowell, Mass., commuter-rail line received a green light at a recent meeting of the New Hampshire Executive Council.

Voting unanimously in favor, the five councilors...

the rest...

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