Thursday, July 24, 2014
My Account  | Login
Nashua;71.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/nfg.png;2014-07-24 02:25:49
Thursday, February 7, 2013

Passenger rail steams forward with approval for $3.9 million feasibility study

CONCORD – A five-year campaign to conduct a federally financed study into extending commuter rail service from Boston through Nashua and onto Concord hit political pay dirt Wednesday.

The Executive Council’s 4-1 vote of approval was the last step needed for a $3.7 million contract with URS Corp. of Salem and San Francisco, which will explore the costs and benefits of rail and report back to state officials by the end of December 2014. ...

Sign up to continue

Print subscriber?    Sign up for Full Access!

Please sign up for as low as 36 cents per day to continue viewing our website.

Digital subscribers receive

  • Unlimited access to all stories from nashuatelegraph.com on your computer, tablet or smart phone.
  • Access nashuatelegraph.com, view our digital edition or use our Full Access apps.
  • Get more information at nashuatelegraph.com/fullaccess
Sign up or Login

CONCORD – A five-year campaign to conduct a federally financed study into extending commuter rail service from Boston through Nashua and onto Concord hit political pay dirt Wednesday.

The Executive Council’s 4-1 vote of approval was the last step needed for a $3.7 million contract with URS Corp. of Salem and San Francisco, which will explore the costs and benefits of rail and report back to state officials by the end of December 2014.

Only a year earlier, the all-Republican council turned down this contract on a 3-2 vote.

Last November, the voters changed the council makeup to 3-2 for Democrats and all three newly elected Democratic members supported it along with Councilor Raymond Burton, R-Bath. Councilor Debora Pignatelli, D-Nashua, said the opposition of her predecessor for the contract, Councilor David Wheeler, moved her to try to reclaim the seat Wheeler had taken from her in 2010.

“The past council’s blockage of this contract was the reason I ran for this office,” Pignatelli said.

Councilor Chris Sununu, R-Newfields, was the lone opponent and said the fiscal reality is the state cannot afford the multimillion-dollar-a-year subsidy that taxpayers would have to pay to keep the trains running.

“Nobody knows where this money would come from,” Sununu said. “Even in good times, this doesn’t make sense.”

Gov. Maggie Hassan, who supported the contract, has stressed it would supply the needed data both supporters and opponents of rail should desire.

Councilor Chris Pappas, D-Manchester, said a rail spur in his city could deliver more travelers to the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.

“The study will put facts on the table and allow us to make informed decisions as we seek to grow our economy and develop our transportation infrastructure,” Pappas said. “This is a critical step forward, and I eagerly await the study’s objective findings on the viability and impact of this important project.”

Burton said it’s important that this study also will spell out the needed infrastructure improvements on this 73 miles of track to deliver more products via rail.

“Take a look at freight traffic. Freight is where the money is when it comes to rail,” Burton said.

Peter Burling is former chairman and current member of the New Hampshire Rail Authority who’s worked with state officials to create enough political support for this study.

“It’s been five years, and it sure feels good to get this far,” Burling said. “Speaking for myself, I think the authority needs to do a lot of analysis on its own and assist the consultant in getting the word out that doing nothing is not an option for us as our surrounding states all move to make rail even more viable for them.”

Sununu questioned if the study can be objective after Transportation Commissioner Chris Clement agreed that URS Corp. could win future consultant contracts if commuter rail ultimately goes forward.

Clement said the selected firm has an excellent reputation and no respectable contractor would skew the facts to promote a predetermined result and expect to stay in the field.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at
321-7040 or klandrigan@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Landrigan on Twitter (@Klandrigan).