Commuter Rail

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The New Hampshire Department of Transportation is taking the next steps toward building a commuter rail line through New Hampshire’s capitol corridor.

A bill allowing the use of federal funds for the development stage of the project became law last week without the governor’s signature.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Backers of a plan to bring commuter rail to Nashua and Manchester say it’s finally time for the state to accept federal funds to complete a study of a potential train line.

Lawmakers are considering a bill, SB 241, that would use the funds to study the environmental, engineering and financial costs of a train line connecting the "capital corridor" with Massachusetts.

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

 

The New Hampshire Senate has voted to approve a bill that would allow the Transportation Department to access existing federal funds to complete a commuter rail expansion analysis from Boston to Nashua and Manchester.

Last year, Gov. Chris Sununu and the Governor's Advisory Commission on Intermodal Transportation included federal funding for project development in the state's 10-year Transportation Improvement Plan.

Courtesy of BSRC/Nashua Rail Transit committee

 

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.

Artaxerxes; Wikimedia Commons

We take a look at the health of New Hampshire's economy, real estate market, and banks ten years after the recession. We also talk about the importance of migration for growing the state, and the announcement of new jobs at BAE, a Londonderry company leaving the state because of a lack of public rail, and ARMI's plan to be in production by spring. 

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

Construction on Amtrak’s Downeaster rail line will interrupt service for the next several weeks.

Fewer trains will run weekdays as Amtrak makes track improvements between Brunswick, Maine, and Dover, New Hampshire. Passengers can expect to complete some sections of the route via shuttle bus.

The Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which operates the Downeaster, says most fares have been reduced for impacted passengers during the construction period.

There is no planned reduction in weekend train trips, but riders will face construction delays.

NHPR File Photo

A bill supporting a study for commuter rail expansion has passed the New Hampshire House.

The House bill on Thursday includes the federally funded study as part of the 10-year state transportation plan.

The project would extend passenger rail from Boston to Manchester, N.H., with two stops in Nashua, a stop at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, and a stop in downtown Manchester.

NHPR File Photo

The president of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce says he's encouraged by Gov. Chris Sununu's support for studying commuter rail expansion.

Michael Skelton now hopes state lawmakers follow suit. He will not be alone.

A new business coalition, “New Hampshire Business for Rail Expansion,” was unveiled Tuesday to advocate for restoring passenger train service from Boston to Manchester. Skelton first mentioned it while speaking on The Exchange on Tuesday.

New Hampshire Considers Commuter Rail (Again)

Jan 29, 2018

Governor Sununu called commuter rail a "boondoggle" during his campaign, but is now supporting a $4 million feasibility study of passenger rail. This has heartened supporters, who say it's long past time for more robust service in New Hampshire. But opponents maintain there are still far better and less expensive ways to expand the state's transportation options. We take a fresh look at our longstanding train debate. 

CK4049 via Flickr CC

Gov. Chris Sununu voiced opposition to a commuter rail in New Hampshire during his campaign. But now he's supporting a $4 million feasibility study to look at how commuter rail could work.

NHPR's Jessica Hunt spoke with rail expansion advocate E.J. Powers on what Sununu's position change could mean for commuter rail in the state.

What do you make of Sununu's new position on commuter rail?

Paige Sutherland for NHPR

During his run for Governor, Chris Sununu called commuter rail a “boondoggle” – a bad investment.

Now he’s putting his support behind a $4 million feasibility study to look at how commuter rail could work. On Wednesday morning in Nashua, Sununu said that with Amazon potentially coming to New Hampshire and more private partnerships available, he thinks it makes sense to explore rail.

Todd Bookman/NHPR

Commuter rail fans in New Hampshire received some good news recently. A private train company is offering to connect Nashua and Bedford to Lowell, Mass., with the promise that the towns won’t be on the hook beyond the costs of maintaining a station. If you’ve been following commuter rail issues in New Hampshire for the past two decades, this funding scenario may jog some memories.

Nashua One Step Closer to Getting Commuter Rail

Oct 11, 2017
FILE

Nashua is one step closer to getting commuter rail in the city.

That's after city lawmakers this week unanimously agreed to enter into a public-private partnership with a railroad company out of Rhode Island.

Railroad Crossing
Photo by Tim Cummins via Flickr Creative Commons

Aldermen in New Hampshire have approved a memorandum that will bring commuter rail services to Nashua.

The Tuesday night unanimous approval of the memorandum of understanding means the city can begin work immediately with the Rhode Island-based Boston Surface Railroad Co to create a detailed plan. The Nashua Telegraph reports the plan says it will create a train service connecting Bedford and Nashua to Lowell, Massachusetts.

Nashua is not liable for any of the funding for the service, though it will assist Boston Surface in looking for grants and federal loans.

The Nashua Board of Aldermen gave an initial nod Tuesday night to a plan to bring a commuter rail stop to the city.

Brady Carlson for NHPR / NHPR

Health care reform, public education and infrastructure spending are all hot topics in Congress – and the State House – nowadays. In Nashua, New Hampshire’s second largest city, Mayor Jim Donchess has been pushing his own ideas on these very issues. Sometimes, this puts him at odds with the folks calling the shots in Concord and Washington.

Recently, during a class on city government

Railroad Crossing
Photo by Tim Cummins via Flickr Creative Commons

Should lawmakers dissolve the unfunded, volunteer-run New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority? That was the question at a House Transportation Committee public hearing Wednesday. 

Last spring, lawmakers voted not to pursue preliminary steps to connect rail line from Boston to southern NH. Now, Republican House member Neal Kurk of Weare told the House Transportation Committee  he wants to eradicate the unfunded group of volunteers tasked by lawmakers with overseeing rail development in New Hampshire.

Earlier this year, it seemed a commuter rail line could really happen for Southern New Hampshire.  

Polling had shown 74 percent of residents support it, and lawmakers were voting on whether to use $4 million in federal dollars to connect Boston’s commuter rail to Nashua and Manchester.

Why N.H. Roadways Are Becoming Deadlier

Sep 20, 2016
digitizedchaos / flickr/cc

After decades of improved safety on our roadways, the trend seems to be reversing, with major increases in fatalities around the country and in New Hampshire.  We look at the reasons for the dramatic uptick in traffic deaths, including distracted drivers and cheap gas.  

This program was originally heard on Aug. 31, 2016.

Commuter Rail Advocates Rally in Nashua

Mar 22, 2016
Flickr

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.

Nashua Mayor Looks To Build Public Support For Rail

Mar 21, 2016
Brady Carlson for NHPR / NHPR

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

House Stops N.H. Commuter Rail Project in its Tracks

Mar 10, 2016
Flickr

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
lzcdome / Flickr/CC

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. 

CK4049 via Flickr CC

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.

Passenger Rail Advocates To Hold Summit In Nashua

Oct 19, 2015
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. 

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