Kuster and Pappas sponsor legislation aimed at bringing commuter rail to NH

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MBTA Commuter Rail. Credit/Wikimedia Commons

WASHINGTON – Earlier this week, U.S. Representative Annie Kuster (D-NH) reintroduced legislation that could help bring commuter rail to Manchester.

The Invest in American Railroads Act seeks to make improvements to the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Program (RRIF) and help New Hampshire pay for the Capitol Corridor Project, liking Nashua, Manchester and Concord to Boston via commuter rail.

The RRIF Program was created by Congress in 1998 to support the development of passenger and short line railroads in the hopes of rehabilitating or building new tracks, bridges, rail yards or other support structures.

Kuster’s legislation was co-sponsored by Representatives Lloyd K. Smucker (R-PA) and Chris Pappas (D-NH).

“Passenger rail has the potential to create endless opportunities for our Granite State communities and regional economy,” said Kuster. “Bringing passenger rail to New Hampshire will spur economic competitiveness, keep Granite Staters from spending hours sitting in traffic, and ensure businesses in the Southern Tier and across New Hampshire can attract the best and brightest minds in the region. This legislation is a win-win for working families and our economy, and I urge my colleagues to support this effort to improve our national, regional, and local transportation infrastructure.”

“Access to a strong network of short line, regional and passenger rail service has strengthened economic growth and created high-paying jobs across my district,” said Smucker. “I am proud to join Rep. Kuster in working to reform existing rail financing programs which could unleash billions of dollars of investment in new rail services while ensuring that they are working to their fullest potential for the American taxpayer.”

“As we look to the future to plan how we rebuild our economy and put people back to work, investing in our rail infrastructure is essential, especially in regards to business and workforce development which will rely on modern transportation infrastructure,” said Pappas. “This legislation is an important step in the process of extending passenger rail from Manchester and Nashua to Boston via the Capitol Corridor project, which will be an economic game-changer for our entire state. I look forward to continuing to work with Congresswoman Kuster to keep building bipartisan consensus and support to make expanded rail a reality for Granite Staters.”

An identical measure was introduced by Kuster last year, but it did not get past committee.

In February, U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and John Thune (R-SD) introduced separate legislation also seeking to reinvigorate RRIF.

“Infrastructure investments will be a critical part of our economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Hassan. “Passenger rail has significant potential in New Hampshire, expanding options for commuters and helping our towns to thrive, and short line and smaller rail lines play a key role in our state’s economy. This bipartisan bill will improve financing options for both, and I look forward to continuing to work across the aisle to invest in infrastructure, create jobs, and grow our economy.”

“States like South Dakota rely on shortline railroads to transport agricultural products and other goods to market, and the RRIF program was originally designed to provide stable financing to small railroads for infrastructure investment,” said Thune. “Unfortunately, shortlines are often unable to afford the time and expense associated with the current RRIF application process, discouraging them from using the program. This legislation makes necessary updates to RRIF so shortlines are better able to use the program as originally intended.”

“Investment in passenger rail will allow for the expansion of economic development opportunities, attract a younger workforce and increase accessibility to employment across New Hampshire, especially as we plan for the long-term recovery from COVID-19,” said Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig. “For years, Manchester residents and businesses have advocated for the expansion of commuter rail, and I want to thank Senator Hassan for her bipartisan push to make it easier to fund these initiatives in the Granite State.”