COMMENTARY: Executive Council derails commuter rail
By U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington and Mayor Jim Donchess - Guest Columnists | Jan 28, 2023
At their last meeting of 2022, the Republican-controlled Executive Council put an end to an engineering study and preliminary design for the extension of MBTA commuter rail services from Boston and Lowell, MA to Nashua and Manchester. In a misguided attempt to save money, three Councilors derailed a crucial step in making accessible and affordable commuter rail a reality for the people of the Granite State. Let’s be clear, this move does not save Granite State families money. Instead, it only serves to waste federal dollars that have already gone toward this necessary study.
New Hampshire residents have demanded commuter rail for years. In a survey conducted by the University of New Hampshire, three in four Granite Staters say they support extending commuter rail service to Nashua and Manchester. More than three-quarters of residents over the age of 50 supported the idea of the Capitol Corridor Project.
The project that the Council rejected, known as the New Hampshire Capitol Corridor (NHCC), has been in the works since the state conducted the NHCC Rail & Transit Alternatives Analysis in 2014. The proposal seeks to use the pre-existing commercial railroad tracks that run between Manchester and Nashua to create commuter rail stops from Boston’s North Station all the way through Lowell and into the downtowns of the Gate City, the Queen City, and the Manchester airport. This new proposal could accommodate up to 32 trips each day. During rush hour, trains would run every 30 minutes and during middays and evenings trains would run every 2 hours, according to the analysis conducted in 2014.
In 2019, the legislature passed a bill, which the governor signed into law, to conduct a comprehensive engineering and design study. This law allowed the NH Department of Transportation to spend $5.5 million to update the 2014 study and create an actionable design for the commuter rail system in southern New Hampshire. This is the funding the Executive Council cut short three weeks ago in an act against the will of the people’s representatives in the State House.
We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make commuter rail a reality. With the work of our congressional delegation and President Biden’s infrastructure investments over the last two years, New Hampshire has a renewed chance to support a commuter rail system and make rail transportation more available and reliable with significant federal support. This would boost our local economies, grow jobs, and create new connections to move people and goods with ease between Manchester, Nashua, and Boston. It would ultimately make regional travel more sustainable, reduce traffic congestion, and allow more opportunities to work, eat, and play in New Hampshire.
The Republican-controlled Executive Council has delayed countless social and economic opportunities for hardworking families, young adults, and small businesses in our state. But, we are committed to getting these back on track. As your elected leaders, we are working together at the federal, state, and local levels to find a solution that makes the possibility of commuter rail a reality for future generations.
People all across our state have resoundingly asked, time and time again, for government leaders to expand public transportation opportunities. It is time we took a more active approach to bring New Hampshire into the 21st Century.
Annie Kuster is the Congresswoman for New Hampshire’s Second Congressional District. Cinde Warmington is the Executive Councilor for New Hampshire’s District 2. Jim Donchess is the mayor of Nashua.