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Executive Councilors Outline Funding Proposal For Commuter 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.

Colin Van Ostern and Chris Pappas say their plan addresses concerns a rail service would be too expensive, by keeping the state's share of operating costs under $5 million a year.

The Capitol Corridor study estimated an annual state price tag of about $10 million.

To cover construction costs, New Hampshire would step up efforts to win federal transportation grants, rely on Massachusetts to cover some infrastructure costs, and turn to private companies to develop four rail stations, similar to the Hooksett welcome centers on Interstate 93.

Cities and towns along the route would also contribute, potentially by using some of the economic benefits generated by the rail line to pay back some of the capital costs.

There's already a state commission studying how government could partner with private investors on expanded rail service. 

But Van Ostern, who's running for governor next year, says it's time to move the conversation about rail from study to action.

"The reality is finding less than five million dollars a year for something that will cause such opportunity for economic growth is both possible and achievable," Van Ostern says. "We think that's an important part of the conversation."

Lawmakers this year voted down $4 million for rail study and planning in the latest two-year capital budget.