Poll shows uptick in support for Boston-to-Manchester commuter rail line

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All aboard?
All aboard?

CONCORD, NH – A recent poll by Public Policy Polling found 74 percent of New Hampshire residents support extending commuter rail from Boston to Manchester — a substantial jump from a February 2014 poll conducted for the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce by the UNH Survey Center that found 68 percent of residents in support of expanding rail from Boston to Manchester. Amid this groundswell of public support for rail expansion, the NH Rail Transit Authority has continued to grow its coalition of supporters through engagement strategies.

“New Hampshire’s residents are speaking loudly and clearly – they are demanding passenger rail expansion,” said Michael Izbicki, chairman of the NH Rail Transit Authority. “With 74 percent of New Hampshire residents supporting rail expansion, there is no doubt the people of New Hampshire are fully behind the expansion of commuter rail along New Hampshire’s Capitol Corridor. New Hampshire residents and business leaders know that expanding rail from Boston to Manchester will have an incredible impact on New Hampshire’s statewide economy in a way that no other infrastructure project could. The time is now for rail.”

Public Policy Polling conducted a survey of 880 New Hampshire voters from October 16-18, 2015. The survey asked respondents about a variety of topics, including prospective 2016 election match-ups and several anticipated 2016 campaign issues, including rail expansion in New Hampshire. [See complete poll results below.]

Under the guidance of the NH Department of Transportation, URS Corporation, a globally recognized expert engineering and design firm, conducted a comprehensive analysis of the 73-mile corridor from Boston, Mass., to Concord, NH, known as the NH Capitol Corridor. The NH Capitol Corridor Study was released in early 2015 and indicated that extending rail to Manchester, known as the Manchester Regional Rail Alternative, would produce the greatest economic impact compared with a relatively moderate investment. In the Manchester Regional Rail Alternative, passenger rail would be extended to Manchester, with two stops in Nashua and with one stop each at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport and in downtown Manchester. NHRTA formally supports the Manchester Regional Rail Alternative.

The NH Rail Transit Authority has made considerable progress in the effort to expand commuter rail along New Hampshire’s Capitol Corridor thanks to two key pieces of legislation passed by lawmakers in the last legislative session.

Senate Bill 63 streamlined NHRTA by decreasing the members of the board of directors and by creating an advisory board — this legislation not only helps NHRTA operate more efficiently, it also improves its standing in the eyes of federal agencies looking to invest in rail expansion projects. In addition, Senate Bill 88 created a legislative commission that is studying public-private partnerships, which could ultimately create new funding sources for all infrastructure projects, including rail.

According to the NH Capitol Corridor Study results, the potential economic impacts from the Manchester Regional Rail Alternative are extraordinary:

  • 5,600 permanent jobs supporting 3,600 new residential units
  • 1.9 million square feet in real estate development
  • 3,390 construction jobs would be created to build the real estate development generated by rail
  • 1,730 jobs would be created every year beginning in 2030
  • $1.2 billion in real estate development would be added to the state’s output between 2021 and 2030, with reinvested earnings adding another $220 million per year beginning in 2030.

The Manchester Regional Rail Alternative carries a total price of $245.6 million, but through a combination of 50 percent federal support and contributions from regional partners, New Hampshire’s investment is estimated to be $72 million. According to the Capital Corridor Study, the service is expected to require an annual investment of $11 million annually to account for debt service and operating and maintenance costs.

Along with a station at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, the Manchester Regional Rail Alternative would establish a station in downtown Manchester on Granite Street, along with two stations in Nashua: a station at Crown Street and a station at either the Pheasant Lane Mall or on Spit Brook Road.

Elected officials have recently furthered the discussion on passenger rail expansion. On November 13 Congresswoman Annie Kuster and New Hampshire Executive Councilors Colin Van Ostern and Chris Pappas outlined a draft financing plan that could expand passenger rail for less than $5 million a year in state funds. Details of the plan are available on www.nhrta.org/news.

The next step in the rail expansion process is the critical project development phase consisting of establishing a detailed financial plan, preliminary engineering, environmental permitting and preparation of funding applications for submission to the Federal Transit Administration and Federal Rail Administration. The project development phase is expected to cost $4 million.

To learn more about efforts to expand passenger rail in New Hampshire, please visit 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 consists of a nine-member board of directors comprised of the NH Department of Transportation, the NH Department of Resources and Economic Development, a member of the NHRTA advisory board, two representatives from the House Transportation Committee and four appointees by the governor. NHRTA’s board of directors takes guidance from an advisory board comprised of broad based membership from 14 cities and towns, 9 regional planning commissions, the NH College and University Council, the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport and three members appointed by the governor. Learn more atwww.nhrta.or

Public Policy Polling

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About Carol Robidoux 5854 Articles
Longtime NH journalist and publisher of ManchesterInkLink.com. Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!