The Struggle for Rail in New Hampshire Not Diverted by Senate Vote

Caltrain, a commuter rail that links San Fransisco and San Jose California.

Although the Republican controlled New Hampshire senate voted to kill funding for an engineering survey and study of the cost and logistics of building rail in New Hampshire, supporters and activists close to the effort to get rail in New Hampshire say they are not deterred. As activists state in the associated press report issued last week, supporters and activists will move forward with their work.  This is good news as the current Tea Pots in power do not represent the needs or the wants of the majority of New Hampshire citizens who (as much as 75%) want to see commuter rail extended into New Hampshire.

Supporters of Commuter Rail not Deterred by Senate Vote

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Supporters of a plan to bring commuter rail from Boston to New Hampshire said the Senate’s decision not to fund the next stage of the process is a bump in the road rather than an end to their efforts.

“(We) look at this as a pause in a marathon as opposed to tripping in a sprint,” said Tracy Hatch, president of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce.

Senators rejected efforts this week to put $4 million in the state’s next capital budget for an engineering and environmental impact analysis. Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan included the money in her budget, and the debate over rail has largely fallen along party lines. Democrats say extending rail into New Hampshire is necessary for economic development and attracting young people; Republicans question the economic benefits and whether the state should subsidize the project.

Bringing rail to New Hampshire is a long-term project: Former Gov. John Lynch signed a bill creating the rail transit authority in 2007. A study completed by the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority last year found that operating rail to Nashua and Manchester would create up to 5,600 permanent jobs and 3,600 new housing units by 2030.

Michael Izbicki, chairman of the transit authority, said his group will press forward with the project and explore public-private partnerships to fund it.

“We’re moving full steam ahead,” he said.

Senators already have passed a bill creating a committee to study public-private partnerships for intermodal transportation. Izbicki hopes the committee will produce a plan allowing the transit authority to explore this type of funding for the rail project.

State law says the Legislature must take a final up or down vote on whether to bring commuter rail into New Hampshire, if the plan ever reaches that stage. New Hampshire already has the rights from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority to operate rail up to Concord, Izbicki said.

Michael Skelton, president of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said his organization is committed to providing more data about the benefits of commuter rail. But, he said, the state should have a responsibility in continuing to invest in the project.

“What I’ve heard from legislators is they want more information, they want to see the business case for passenger rail, and that’s something we’re very interested in providing,” Skelton said.

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