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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

There is much to consider before funding commuter rail

Rep. Peter Leishman (D-Peterborough) is a long-time advocate for passenger rail in New Hampshire. He lays out some of the key questions that need to be answered about bringing commuter rail to Nashua in this morning's Union Leader:
However, other sticking points remain. The owner of the rail line from the New Hampshire border north to Manchester and beyond is controlled by a privately owned railroad company. Officers of that company, Pan Am Railways, have testified before a legislative committee that they would only consider passenger rail service if their company is exempt from any responsibility for an accident, even in the case of gross negligence. I think that most of us would find this requirement hard to swallow.

As we continue with the passenger rail debate, I believe a couple of options deserve serious consideration before we consider spending more than $300 million.

First, working with the MBTA, we need to look at extending commuter rail service to the New Hampshire state line (south Nashua). The cost of this option is substantially less expensive, as most, if not all, of the necessary studies have been completed, and the MBTA owns the rail corridor from south Nashua to Boston.

Second, the New Hampshire Legislature needs to hold noticed public hearings to explore the advantages and disadvantages that would come should the state acquire the Nashua to Manchester railroad corridor for future commuter rail service. This should be done before committing public funds to this project.

Finally, I believe we should enlist the support of New Hampshire bus operators. They could provide service not only from Manchester to the station in Nashua, but from other cities, such as Concord. That would enable New Hampshire to commence an energy-efficient transportation service to serve this corridor, and bus service would significantly reduce the cost of providing service beyond Nashua.

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