Commuter Rail - Issue Summary

Is commuter rail service a good idea for New Hampshire?

By: LFDA Editor

In November 2014 the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority (NHRTA) released the results of a feasibility study for southern New Hampshire commuter rail.

The study examined three rail options: a line connecting Nashua to Massachusetts, a line extending to Manchester, and a line extending all the way to Concord.

Rail to Nashua

The "Nashua Minimum" option would be primarily funded by federal and Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) contributions, leaving $4 million in additional costs each year.  The rail line between Massachusetts and Nashua would bring an estimated 1,200 new jobs and 600 new housing units to New Hampshire by 2030, according to the study.

Rail to Manchester

The "Manchester Regional" option would also be funded in large part by federal and MBTA contributions, leaving $7 million in additional costs each year.  The route would have four stops in New Hampshire.  The study estimated the rail between Massachusetts and Manchester would bring 5,600 new permanent jobs and 3,600 housing units to the state by 2030.

Rail to Concord

Lastly, the "Concord Intercity" option would get federal funds, but no MBTA contributions.  It would cost the state an additional $15 million each year.  The route would also have just four stops in New Hampshire.  The connection between Massachusetts and Concord would bring an estimated 3,700 jobs and 2,200 new housing units to New Hampshire by 2030.

Funding Options

The additional $4, $7, or $15 million each year could be funded through parking fees, vehicle registration fees, municipal contributions, lottery revenues, the state Energy Efficiency Fund, or some other state government source.

The state legislature must now decide whether to provide additional funding for the NHRTA to pursue one of these commuter rail options.

Arguments in favor of funding commuter rail

According to the NHRTA study, a southern New Hampshire commuter rail will increase residential development, because an easier commute attracts new residents.  Those new residents and riders will in turn attract commercial development and new jobs.

According to the state’s Department of Transportation (DOT), other benefits include increased tourism, reduced traffic congestion on Routes 3 and 93 and therefore less cost to maintain those roads, more transportation choices for residents, and decreased pollution. 

“There is simply no economic development opportunity on the horizon that could transform New Hampshire’s economy like the expansion of passenger rail could offer,” said Thomas Mahon, chair of the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority. “We firmly believe that the options are clear: invest in passenger rail or choose the status quo and face the negative consequences associated with our young people fleeing the state while our existing population ages and in-migration continues to decline”

A February 2011 UNH/Granite State poll reported 53% of New Hampshire residents strongly favor extending commuter rail service.

Arguments against funding commuter rail

Commuter rail opponents challenge rosy economic projections.  Josh Elliott-Traficante, policy analyst for the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, has said rail stations do not prompt new businesses to open, they only change where businesses choose to locate. 

Opponents also point to financial problems faced by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and National Railroad Passenger Corporation. 

“It’s not an energy-efficient way to move people; not a good use of money; and it would create a state bureaucracy that requires more taxation to sustain,” 2015 House Speaker Bill O’Brien (R-Mont Vernon) told the Union Leader.

Lastly, some opponents are concerned about pollution from commuter rail.  A 2010 study by the Bookings Institution found that transit investment only changes the metropolitan landscape if there are other incentives to decrease car use. 

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If you are interested in a commuter rail in NH and want to take action here are some choices:

  • If you are new to contacting your government, please visit our page on How to Take Action.

  • Contact one of the organizations listed in Learn More. These groups represent the pro or con positions of issues.

  • Contact a government official as follows:

1. Contact members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives or the New Hampshire Senate
 
2. Give your opinion to Governor Maggie Hassan.

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Do you think NH should have a commmuter rail or not?  Whatever your thoughts are, we urge you to make your voice heard. See the "Learn More/Take Action" section on this page for more information.

Issue Status

In November 2014 the NH Rail Transit Authority presented the results of a feasibility study for commuter rail in southern New Hampshire.  Now the legislature and/or municipalities must decide if they want to fund commuter rail.

News

December 7, 2014
Nashua Telegraph: NH Executive Council approves extension of rail study contract
December 4, 2014
Concord Monitor: Executive Council approves extension of rail study period
November 23, 2014
Nashua Telegraph: Analysis of NH rail, transit alternatives available
November 21, 2014
Nashua Telegraph: Crowds pack commuter rail hearing at Nashua Public Library
Union Leader: Big potential, big subsidies projected in new rail study
November 20, 2014
Nashua Telegraph: Meeting Thursday on commuter rail to NH report
Union Leader: Former mayor makes pitch for commuter rail
November 19, 2014
Union Leader: Study will reveal if interstate train could chug from Boston to Concord
November 7, 2014
Nashua Telegraph: NH, MBTA officials discuss bringing rail to Nashua’s doorstep
October 31, 2014
NHBR: NH passenger rail authority launches website
October 29, 2014
Nashua Telegraph: State to hold Nashua meeting to improve bus, rail service
October 21, 2014
Foster's Daily Democrat: Executive councilor on campaign trail backs commuter rail
WMUR: Commuter rail, abortion drive talk in 2nd District Congressional race
Union Leader: Kuster: Passenger rail could help to lead manufacturing renaissance in Nashua
October 19, 2014
Nashua Telegraph: NH Rail Transit website touts passenger rail through Nashua
October 13, 2014
Union Leader: Engineering firm presents possible Plaistow rail options
October 11, 2014
WMUR: Rail panel unveils website
October 10, 2014
Nashua Telegraph: Nashua Chamber head critical of Garcia stance on passenger rail
October 3, 2014
Union Leader: Proposed commuter rail station locations in Plaistow under review
September 9, 2014
Seacoast Online: Commuters encouraged to explore regional transit options
May 15, 2014
Foster's Daily Democrat: Expert: Passenger rail an economic development tool
May 10, 2014
Nashua Telegraph: All aboard: The human side of the commuter rail debate
March 25, 2014
Union Leader: Next stop Manchester? Consultants pinpoint three possible rail stops in city
March 24, 2014
Nashua Telegraph: NH chamber poll: Support for commuter rail, casino, Northern Pass
March 20, 2014
Nashua Telegraph: Aldermen focus on cost of bringing commuter rail to Nashua, investigate costs of shorter rail line
March 19, 2014
Union Leader: Control of 18-mile stretch of track could affect commuter rail's return to NH
Union Leader: Rail study: Three stations for Nashua
March 9, 2014
Nashua Telegraph: NH state rep gets railroad bid back on track
March 8, 2014
Seacoast Online: Sites proposed for commuter rail in southern NH
March 7, 2014
Nashua Telegraph: Commuter train through Nashua could bring more riders than Amtrak’s Downeaster
Eagle-Tribune: Sites unveiled for potential Plaistow rail station
March 6, 2014
NHPR: Rail study group expects 3,000 riders daily between Manchester and Boston
Concord Monitor: NH DOT presents preliminary options for Boston-Concord transit system
February 26, 2014
Union Leader: Study finds demand for Manchester-Concord public transit
February 24, 2014
Nashua Telegraph: Nashua mayor keeps focus on passenger rail
February 20, 2014
Foster's Daily Democrat: NH senators, Shea-Porter call for track inspection
NHPR: Shea-Porter, Ayotte, and Shaheen request federal railroad inspections on Seacoast
February 18, 2014
Nashua Telegraph: Study of options to reduce congestion on I-93 in NH is halfway complete
February 11, 2014
Seacoast Online: Help sought in fight to obtain rail safety records
February, 9, 2014
Nashua Telegraph: Nashua mayor says she didn’t derail commuter train discussion
February 8, 2014
Union Leader: Nashua mayor denies that she blocked rail presentation
Seacoast Online: Information request on railroad inspections not yet answered
February 5, 2014
Union Leader: Rail talk delayed in Nashua
January 28, 2014
Nashua Telegraph: NH commuters will face crunch as Lowell commuter rail loses 500 parking spaces
January 22, 2014
Union Leader: In rail study, restoring service in central, southern NH is focus
January 12, 2014
Seacoast Online: Long odds for Portsmouth passenger train revival
November 25, 2013
Union Leader: Railway company proposing Montreal to Portland service through northern NH
October 31, 2013
Eagle-Tribune: Plaistow MBTA feasibility study underway
October 26, 2013
Nashua Telegraph: Train travel has declined, but interest hasn't
October 16, 2013
Foster's Daily Democrat: Downeaster ridership numbers so good more roundtrips may be added
August 23, 2013
Union Leader: Residents voice concerns over rail service in Plaistow
Eagle-Tribune: Residents get their say on Plaistow MBTA study
WMUR: Residents split on NH commuter rail
August 3, 2013
Concord Monitor: NH DOT studies Boston rail extension alternatives
Eagle-Tribune: Public asked to weigh in on NH rail study
August 2, 2013
Foster's Daily Democrat: NH DOT studies Boston rail extension alternatives
July 23, 2013
NHBR: Maine firm's Portland-to-Montreal passenger rail plan includes Berlin
July 5, 2013

Nashua Telegraph: Nashua purchases Crown Street land for $1.4M for park-and-ride facility, possible commuter rail station 
June 12, 2013
WMUR: Sununu blasts outreach money in rail study
June 5, 2013

NHPR: Executive Council approves Plaistow rail study
May 9, 2013
Union Leader: Future of rail unknown in Nashua with dismissal of ad hoc study on commute transit
February 7, 2013
WMUR: Executive Council approves study of Concord-to-Boston rail
Union Leader: Executive Council OK's $3.6M rail study
February 3, 2013
Nashua Telegraph: Supporters tracking victory for rail service from Nashua to Boston
September 18, 2012
Nashua Telegraph: Lack of hard cost data hangs over commuter rail debate
June 24, 2012
Foster's Daily Democrat: Railroad through N.H. provides new path for shale oil
June 15, 2012
Eagle-Tribune: Shaheen urges House to vote on transportation bill
April 11, 2012

Nashua Telegraph: Nashua board, residents question Executive Councilor Wheeler on rail vote
April 9, 2012
Nashua Telegraph: Wheeler to talk rail with Nashua aldermen Tuesday
March 6, 2012

Nashua Telegraph: Nashua residents flock to show support for passenger rail
Nashua Telegraph: Salem firm recommended to lead $3.6m rail study; Executive Council to vote Wednesday
March 2, 2012

Nashua Telegraph: Transit planners coming to Nashua for rail meetings
Eagle-Tribune: NH seeks to support train service without subsidies
March 1, 2012
Foster's Daily Democrat: N.H. State Rail Plan calls for state to continue existing passenger service
February 29, 2012
Concord Monitor: NH seeks public comment on rail plan
February 16, 2012

Union Leader: Bye-bye, choo-choo: Train funding derails (opinion)
January 29, 2012
Boston.com: Commuter rail plan for Plaistow stop under study
January 4, 2012
Union Leader: NH Rail Transit Authority survives House vote
November 15, 2011
Boston.com: NH town interested in getting a commuter rail