Rail Authority survives for time being

Bill to eliminate agency heads to study committee

CONCORD – The question on whether or not the state should continue to have a Rail Authority is headed for a legislative study committee, which will start meeting in Concord later this month.

This is the result of wrangling among members of the House Transportation committee over a proposed bill that would have eliminated the volunteer New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority outright.

“That’s positive, at least, that it didn’t go through a quick death,” said Michael O’Brien, a Nashua state representative and supporter of the Rail Authority’s continued existence.

O’Brien wants to see a positive outcome for the authority, as he see it vital to plans to bring a commuter rail service to Nashua, Manchester, and possibly Concord.

The New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority has helped lead studies on commuter rail options for the state. The authority’s latest study on the Capitol Corridor proposal to bring commuter rail from Boston up to Nashua and Manchester is essentially a dead issue given Republican opposition to the project, with its total cost of more than $200 million.

O’Brien said that commuter rail needs to happen for the Nashua and Manchester economies, as it will allow employees and businesses to flourish. This economic boost will benefit the whole state, he said.

While there are no plans for commuter rail on the table right now, the authority needs to stay in place, according to O’Brien. At some point, the political winds may shift, making rail a viable political option again. He also noted that President Donald Trump wants to invest in infrastructure projects, and the commuter rail extension into New Hampshire is a perfect project. The Rail Authority is a necessary component if the project gets off the ground, he said.

“This is important, we really need this,” O’Brien said.