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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Salem firm recommended to lead $3.6m rail study; Executive Council to vote Wednesday

CONCORD – State transportation officials are recommending a Salem company for a $3.6 million study in the cost and need for bringing commuter rail service from Boston through Nashua and on to Concord.

URS Corp., of Salem, was chosen by a state design team from among nine firms that originally bid for the job.

Federal grants support about 89 percent of the project while the state has to come up with 11 percent, or about $411,000.

State officials stress that New Hampshire’s match for the work won’t come directly from state taxpayer dollars but from state-backed bonds in a previous two-year public works budget.

The Federal Transit Administration and Federal Railroad Administration jointly support the work for this 78-mile corridor. Two ongoing studies will look at a financial plan that would need legislative approval and a definition of the purpose and need for the work.

The scope of the work includes looking at alternatives to rail, including bus and greater carpooling by commuting motorists.

Gov. John Lynch is supportive of the contract, though it faces an uncertain future with the state Executive Council that votes on it Wednesday .

The all-Republican council in the past has gone on record against spending any state money for rail, as it did during the confirmation hearings on Transportation Commissioner Chris Clement.

While Clement’s office favors going ahead with the state, Clement has made clear that commuter rail isn’t in the immediate future for the state’s 10-year highway plan, and it’s up to the Legislature to decide if it’s worthy of financial support.

URS was the unanimous recommended company from among four finalist firms that were interviewed.

The company will have as a subcontractor Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc., of Bedford.

The other finalists were the Louis Berger Group, of Manchester; HDR Engineering Inc., of Boston; and Parsons Brinckerhoff, of Manchester.

The Republican-led House of Representatives has in the past opposed the project and last year tried to dramatically dilute the powers of the state-created New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority.

Lynch vetoed that bill, and the House of Representatives sustained that decision.

Kevin Landrigan can reached at 321-7040 or klandrigan@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, check out Kevin Landrigan (@KLandrigan) on Twitter and don’t forget The Telegraph’s new, interactive live feed at www.nashuatelegraph.com/topics/livefeed.