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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Nashua mayor, picked for Gov.-elect Hassan’s transportation transition team, shares commuter rail goal

NASHUA – When Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan takes over for Gov. John Lynch next month, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau will be part of the team that sets her sights on the state’s transportation priorities.

A goal that Lozeau, a Republican, and Hassan, a Democrat, share is bringing passenger rail to the Granite State. ...

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NASHUA – When Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan takes over for Gov. John Lynch next month, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau will be part of the team that sets her sights on the state’s transportation priorities.

A goal that Lozeau, a Republican, and Hassan, a Democrat, share is bringing passenger rail to the Granite State.

On Monday, at The Telegraph’s Nashua 50 reception at the Crowne Plaza, Hassan acknowledged Lozeau’s teamwork while giving a speech on the state’s economic future to nearly 180 business, civic and community leaders from Greater Nashua.

“Hopefully, working together, we can find a way to fund that capabilities study for commuter rail to Nashua and, perhaps, beyond,” Hassan said, thanking Lozeau for her “continuing leadership” and her participation on her transportation transition outreach team.

Hassan’s remarks are just one more sign that the state is getting onboard with commuter rail.

In November, the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority met to discuss drafting a letter to Hassan requesting that she and the Executive Council revisit $3.2 million in federal funds that the council rejected in March by a 3-2 vote.

The Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Transit Administration grants, which would fund a study into extending Boston’s commuter rail line through Nashua to Concord, do not expire until December 2013, officials said.

Along with her transportation group, Hassan – who will be sworn in as the state’s second female governor Jan. 3 – has announced eight other informal teams that will advise her as she prepares to lead New Hampshire for a two-year term.

Along with transportation, Hassan’s transition teams will focus on the state budget, business outreach, office administration, education and the workforce, energy and environment, public safety, health care and North Country priorities.

“We move forward best as a state when we bring as many different perspectives to the table as possible to identify solutions to our challenges,” said Hassan in a press release. “My Transition Outreach Teams will communicate with businesses, community leaders, legislators and all those who want to contribute their ideas as we work to develop a balanced budget and build a stronger, more innovative New Hampshire economy.”

Hassan’s transportation group also includes Lew Feldstein, former president of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation; Robin Comstock, president of the Greater Manchester Area Chamber of Commerce; Steve Duprey, owner of Duprey Cos. and representative of the NH Lodging and Restaurant Association; David Preece, executive director and CEO of the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission; and William Parnell, president of the Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce.

“For our economy to continue moving forward, we must have a transportation infrastructure that can support our communities and innovative businesses,” Hassan said. “My transportation outreach team will leverage their expertise from the public and private sectors to help identify our needs and outline ideas for a long-term infrastructure strategy.”

Lozeau said Monday that the role will require her to send requests to area communities through letters and emails to get input on their transportation needs.

“Nashua is playing a pretty significant role around transportation in the state,” Lozeau said Monday. “I’m assuming she thought I’d have something to bring to the table.”

Lozeau anticipates the team may involve a meeting or two in Concord, but that her responsibility likely will only last through the beginning of next year.

“I want to make sure she knows everything she needs to know about rail,” Lozeau said, “and I’m going to make sure I provide our 2010 transportation task force report, because that certainly had a lot of individuals participating on that team, and then I’m going to reach out to others in the community and get their input, too.”

Lozeau and the city’s Board of Aldermen have voiced strong support for bringing commuter rail north, at least to Nashua.

In April, they hosted Executive Councilor David Wheeler, R-Milford, to get answers about his vote that denied the rail study. Wheeler lost his campaign for re-election on Nov. 6 to rail advocate Debora Pignatelli, D-Nashua.

“I think that the future for rail has always been bright,” Lozeau said. “It’s a little bit brighter now. I think that if you don’t have to work to convince people to get past the first step, then that’s a little easier, and I think that’s what this presents for us right now.”

At least in Nashua, the possibilities for bringing passenger rail up from Boston remain alive and healthy.

For instance, a $1.4 million resolution to purchase land on Nashua’s Crown Street for a potential park and ride and rail station sits in aldermanic committee.

Lozeau also has said that the city hopes to work with Tyngsborough, Mass., officials to examine how the region could bring a multimodal transit center to a future Exit 36 South off the F.E. Turnpike, just over the Massachusetts line, that could include a rail station.

Maryalice Gill can be reached at 594-6490 or mgill@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Gill on Twitter (@Telegraph_MAG).