NASHUA, NH – Preliminary results of the two-year study on the expansion of passenger rail service along the 73-mile stretch from Boston to Concord known as the NH Capitol Corridor are in – and the benefits to New Hampshire’s economy are significant.
According to initial study findings, establishing four commuter rail stops between Lowell, MA., and downtown Manchester (known as the Manchester Regional Rail alternative) would draw a minimum of 668,000 riders a year, leading to the creation of 5,600 permanent jobs supporting 3,600 new residential units along the corridor by 2030. Approximately 230 jobs would be created for the construction of the rail line and an additional 3,400 construction jobs would be created to build the real estate development generated by rail. Beginning in 2030, 1,700 new jobs would be created every year due to the expansion of passenger rail. The preliminary study findings can be found at www.nhrta.org.
The New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) held the final public meeting Nov. 20 at the Nashua Public Library to collect community input and discuss the latest findings of the NH Capitol Corridor Study. The study team lead by URS Corporation presented several options focused on the commuter and intercity rail alternatives at seven potential stations between Nashua and Concord, considered bus improvements and examined a no-build scenario.
According to the analysis, the Manchester Regional Rail alternative serving four stations in Nashua – one stop at Crown Street and one stop at either Spit Brook Road or Pheasant Lane Mall and Manchester – stops at Granite Street and Manchester-Boston Regional Airport – would have an annual ridership of 668,000 and offer the greatest economic benefits with moderate construction impacts.
“There is simply no economic development opportunity on the horizon that could transform New Hampshire’s economy like the expansion of passenger rail could offer,” said Thomas Mahon, chair of the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority. “While preliminary, these initial results demonstrate the positive impact rail could deliver to New Hampshire. Once the final report is submitted in December, policy makers will have all the evidence they need to make a choice. We firmly believe that the options are clear – invest in passenger rail or choose the status quo and face the negative consequences associated with our young people fleeing the state while our existing population ages and in-migration continues to decline.”
The study team also identified preliminary costs associated with developing the various alternatives. According to the report, the total capital cost to extend passenger rail to Manchester is estimated at $246 million. The final version of the study, due out in December, will have more precise costs as well as financing options, including the potential for federal grants for up to half of the capital costs, and bonding recommendations.
Slides from the Nov. 20 presentation embedded below:
Rail continues to maintain strong public support in the Granite State. A February 2014 University of New Hampshire survey commissioned by the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce found that 68 percent of New Hampshire residents favor the extension of passenger rail service. Governor Hassan stated that rail was needed to position our state for the future in her recent victory speech.
According to Mahon, once the final report is received in December, the NHRTA board will evaluate the findings and develop a strategy for addressing the next step in this process – beginning the critical project development phase. This stage is crucial to the future of passenger rail service and consists developing a detailed financial plan, final engineering, and preparation of funding applications for submission to the Federal Rail Administration and the Federal Transit Administration. Assuming NHRTA obtains the needed $4 million in funding to conduct the project development phase, work could conceivably kick off in the spring or summer of 2015 depending on what option is chosen.
“These facts cited in the initial study findings illustrate that passenger rail fosters development, jobs and increased community investment,” said David Preece, Executive Director & CEO of the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission and NHRTA board member. “There is no denying that rail serves as a catalyst for the type of smart development and multi-modal transportation options that will attract businesses and talented young professionals to the state, not to mention generating critical tax revenue. The only question is whether New Hampshire is ready to grasp this opportunity.”
According to Preece, now is the time for business leaders and the public to have their voices heard by support rail at www.nhrta.org.
About the NH Rail Transit Authority
The NH Rail Transit Authority (NHRTA) was established in 2007 and is tasked with encouraging and overseeing the redevelopment of passenger rail services throughout New Hampshire with an initial emphasis on the NH Capitol Corridor. The NHRTA is administratively attached to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation and has broad based membership from 11 cities and towns, 7 regional planning commissions, two state senators and two state representatives, the NHDOT, the Manchester-Boston Regional airport, and four appointees by the governor. Learn more at www.nhrta.org.