A rail transit group formed by the Nashua Mayor’s office says a public-private partnership could bring passenger rail to the state by 2023.
The Nashua Rail Transit Committee says without a sea change in Concord or the arrival of another offer, Nashua's best chance for light rail lies with the Boston Surface Railroad Company (BSRC).
In a report to the Mayor and Board of Aldermen, the committee says BSRC's route would stretch from New Hampshire to Providence, R.I., with stops in Lowell and Worcester, to connect commuters to Boston.
The plan would require funding from the federal government but not the state. In order for BSRC to secure federal funds, the route would need to reach a certain length, stretching beyond Nashua to Bedford.
BSRC anticipates 10,000 passengers annually from its proposed Nashua and Bedford stops by year 10 of the project.
Jay Minkarah, a rail transit committee member and executive director of the Regional Planning Commission, says he's "cautiously optimistic" but that many questions remain.
"The public ultimately wants to know when it's going to happen, what it's going to cost, how long is the trip going to take, how frequently are the trains going to run, and we're just not quite there yet," he says.
Another question that remains is the issue of leasing rights.
The proposed route runs along a freight line owned by Pan Am Railways, which has given trackage rights to the MBTA.
BSRC is hoping to begin negotiations wth the Massachusetts DOT/MBTA to access the tracks. Upon the transfer, the tracks would need major upgrades before carrying passenger rail.
The Board of Aldermen is set to discuss the committee's reports on January 23.
After that, Minkarah says a committee within the board will look at the project, and a hired rail consultant will likely provide insight on specific project costs.