Will New Hampshire ever get started…

…in bringing back its once economically-critical rail system?

With Vermont beefing up its rail structures to take heavier oil tank cars, and raising their overpasses to accommodate “double-stack” freight containers, on top of its Ethan Allen and Vermonter daily services into New York City; now Maine with its Downeaster passenger service Boston/Portland, five round trips per day, and beyond to Brunswick, the Granite State lags way behind its neighbors.

In fact, the New England Rail System map shows revitalized rail lines skipping our state !

So how long has Nashua been waiting to link up with Lowell (18 miles) for badly-needed commuter service into Boston? Anyone remember “Mayor Maurice?” That’s when they first expressed such a need !

There are federal rail planning and pre-engineering funds available to New Hampshire but they were turned down by the last Executive Council.

Let’s urged Gov. Maggie to replace this item before her new Council for a re-vote, then get on with it.

  • http://livablemht.org FrankLloydMike

    Great post, except that the rail system–freight and commuter rail–should not be described as “once economically critical.” That system is critical today and for the future growth of New Hampshire. The Republicans would have us believe that New Hampshire can continue to rely on “low taxes” and never invest in things like rail, education and so on. But as a report from this past fall very clearly explained, New Hampshire’s economic prowess has been waning for at least the past decade. The state is losing high-tech jobs and young people, both of which could be attracted through investments in things like rail. High-tech manufacturing requires the sort of investment in freight rail capacity like what is being done in Vermont, and young people (as well as other groups) are increasingly looking for an urban lifestyle. With commuter rail between Concord, Manchester, Nashua and Boston, New Hampshire would be able to market its three largest cities as small, affordable urban centers in their own right, with direct and easy car-free access to Boston. That would also be hugely important in attracting businesses, which in turn need to attract skilled, educated young workers.

    The new Executive Council and governor are supporters of the the commuter rail project, and hopefully they will correct the embarrassing mistake of the last Executive Council, and accept the grant to study commuter rail in the Merrimack Valley. But New Hampshire needs to act fast. We’ve been waiting for this vital infrastructure for too long, and the economic and demographic trends show that we are already being passed by.

  • BobRobertson

    Why isn’t anyone building them if they are so vital? There seem to be folks champing at the bit to build casinos, where are the rail speculators?

    • http://livablemht.org FrankLloydMike

      And where are the highway speculators? And airport speculators? And water main speculators? Not everything that is vital is profitable–some things like roads, rail and other major infrastructure–are not in themselves profitable, but they provide the basis for economic growth, for private investment, for making a city or town a desirable place to live, work and visit. It’s false to suggest that because private developers aren’t itching to build rail, that it is not vital to business (and quality-of-life) in the state: just look at how strongly the business community (and the Chambers of Commerce in Manchester and Nashua) backs the commuter rail project.

      • BobRobertson

        “And where are the highway speculators?”

        Like… the privately built highways called “Turnpikes”?

        I did not say that private developers were not interested, I asked where they were.

        If you are correct, and they do exist, then what is stopping them?

        • http://livablemht.org FrankLloydMike

          Please. This isn’t the 18th century. We don’t have privately built turnpikes anymore, and we haven’t had them for a long time. It’s a deluded fantasy to pretend that we can return to an 18th century model of infrastructure investment if we want to be competitive in the 21st century.

          I never said that private developers were interested in building a rail line; rather that businesses in general are interested in the economic benefits that having one would provide. The economic benefits for an individual business would not make up the cost of building and running a rail line, but the combined economic benefit for the entire community likely would. So no, there are no private developers looking to foot the entire bill for rail, but the business community generally (and according to a UNH survey, 75% of NH residents) understand that the cost to build and run a rail line would result in offsetting economic growth, as well an improved quality-of-life. And really that’s all that government is: the community, as a whole, resolving to do something together for the benefit of the whole that individual members could not do on their own.

          Of course, that’s not to say that public-private partnerships can’t be explored to help pay some of the costs of rail and other infrastructure. In Portland, Oregon, for example, streetcar stops are bear the name of a sponsoring business near the stop as well as the general stop name. There are plenty of other ideas that could be explored, but at the end of the day, rail–like roads, schools, and so forth–is an example of where public investment is needed to foster private development and public well-being.

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