Donchess continues pushing for passenger rail

NASHUA – City officials plan to pave 30 miles of streets this year, but Mayor Jim Donchess spent part of Wednesday at the New Hampshire State House in Concord promoting transportation that does not run on pavement – passenger rail.

Later Wednesday, Donchess met with residents of Ward 3 at Amherst Street Elementary School for his second town hall-style session in as many nights. He said state officials now need to move forward on the final planning stage of the Capitol Corridor rail project.

“The next thing that has to happen is the state needs to move forth with what is called the final planning stage of the Capitol Corridor rail project, and that can be completed at a cost of $5 million – federal money exclusively, no state dollars involved,” Donchess said.

Donchess said this step would put the state in position to apply for federal subsidies for rail service.

He said there is now a bill chugging it’s way through the Legislature, Senate Bill 241, which would place this $5 million of federal money into the 10-year plan. Donchess said that earlier in the day on Wednesday, the House Public Works and Highways Committee took public testimony on the bill, where he testified in favor. He is optimistic that it will go forward, but nonetheless, will still need to pass the House.

Donchess hopes Gov. Chris Sununu will not veto the legislation, provided it ultimately does pass the Democratic-controlled House and Senate.

“We think there is some light at the end of the tunnel on that front,” Donchess said.

Early on in the meeting, Donchess mentioned said the city is working on a number of things to attract people to the downtown area, particularly younger people. This includes riverfront enhancements and a new railyard-themed neighborhood. He also mentioned a new rail-centric neighborhood that could come to life in the coming years, known as the Railyard District.

“We are working to develop a new residential neighborhood where Corriveau-Routhier and Henry Hanger are, which we call the Railyard District,” Donchess said. “That seems to be moving ahead very quickly. That will add several hundred more residents downtown.”

However, with more residents moving into downtown, that means more traffic on roadways. This is the second of nine town hall-style meetings, and the first hour or so was devoted to discussion on infrastructure projects, including things such as paving and sidewalk upgrades.

Assistant Construction Engineer Mark Saunders spoke about paving 30 miles of roadway and sealing 31 miles of cracks. Saunders said that the lifespan for arterial, or main roads, is 10-12 years, while a residential road is closer to 15 years.

“Any crack in the road will eventually become a pothole overtime,” he said.

Saunders said there are about 1,400 streets in the city that stretch about 300 miles.

The next town hall-style meeting will provide residents of Ward 2 their opportunity to speak. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with the discussion lasting from 7-9 p.m. June 4 at Charlotte Avenue Elementary School Media Center.

Adam Urquhart may be contacted at 594-1206, or at aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.