Commuter Rail - Issue Summary

Is commuter rail service a good idea for New Hampshire?

By: LFDA Editor

Attempts to get commuter train service in southern New Hampshire appear to be back on track.

In February 2013 the Executive Council voted 4-1 to approve a $3.6 million federally-funded feasibility study for restoring passenger rail service along the Merrimack River, from Boston to Nashua to Concord, in what has been dubbed "The Capitol Corridor" project. URS Corp., the group completing the study, will present a report in the fall of 2014.  For details on the study, visit the NH Capital Corridor website.

In June 2013, the Executive Council then voted 5-0 to approve a $659,000 federally-funded feasibility study to evaluate a commuter rail connecting Haverhill, MA to Plaistow, NH.

Arguments in favor of commuter rail

In general, commuter rail supporters argue that a rail would stimulate economic development, decrease traffic congestion, and decrease pollution from cars. 

In 2012, the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority (NHRTA) estimated new rail service would bring in about $2 billion in new business and more than 19,000 jobs over the first 20 years, and another $258 million per year from sales during construction.

The state’s Department of Transportation (DOT) has said service would result in other benefits including an increase in property values of 5 to 10 percent in towns not served by the trains, 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. 

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

Arguments against commuter rail

Commuter rail opponents, on the other hand, generally argue that a rail would not necessarily increase economic development, could pose unknown costs for the state, and might create new pollution problems. 

Some stakeholders question the NHRTA's estimates on the economic impact of a commuter rail.  Josh Elliott-Traficante, policy analyst for the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, says 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. 

Regarding pollution, 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.  Residents of Plaistow have also expressed concern about noise and air pollution if New Hampshire builds layover stations where trains idle for an hour or more.  

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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 February 2013, the Executive Council approved a $3.6 million study of expanding Massachusetts’ commuter rail line from Boston to Concord.  That study will finish in the Fall of 2014.

News

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