Rail supporters steadfast despite Senate ‘no’ vote on restoring rail funding

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MANCHESTER, NH – The state’s two largest Chambers of Commerce, economic development and rail advocates expressed unwavering support for passenger rail expansion from Boston to Nashua and Manchester, despite a narrow New Hampshire Senate vote May 12 against restoring funding for the New Hampshire Capitol Corridor rail expansion project.

Sen. Bette Lasky, D-Nashua,  introduced a floor amendment Thursday that would have enabled New Hampshire to access $4 million in federal funding to pay for the project development phase of the rail expansion project at zero expense to New Hampshire taxpayers. That amendment failed by a 13-11 vote.

Legislators had the opportunity to leverage a mere 0.3 percent of New Hampshire’s 280 million surplus toll credits to tap into $4 million in federal funding.

New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority Chairman Michael Izbicki released the following statement in response to the New Hampshire Senate vote:

“While today’s vote in the New Hampshire Senate is disappointing, 74 percent of New Hampshire residents and dozens of the state’s leading businesses remain undeterred, as we know that rail expansion could play a key role in improving New Hampshire’s economy. Manufacturers, bankers, tech entrepreneurs, educators, lawyers, engineers, doctors, elected officials and members of the public from all walks of life are all outspoken supporters of rail – and are perplexed why the state wouldn’t proceed with funding due diligence phase which would provide policy makers with all the answers they need to make an educated decision. Unlike any other transportation infrastructure project, rail expansion stands to have a transformative economic impact on the entire state of New Hampshire, generating 5,600 permanent jobs and $750 million in real estate development. We will be steadfast in our efforts to make sure legislators understand how integral rail expansion is to establishing a true multi-modal transportation system and securing the state’s economic future.”

The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce released the following statement today from CEO Michael Skelton in response to the Senate vote:

“We are disappointed by today’s vote to not move forward with the project development phase of the Capitol Corridor rail project. Completion of this phase is essential to providing policymakers with the facts they need to make an informed decision on restoring rail service to New Hampshire. By utilizing toll credits and federal grants, New Hampshire had the opportunity to move forward with the project development phase this year at no cost to state taxpayers.

“While today’s vote is a setback, efforts from the business community to restore rail service to the Capitol Corridor and build a modern transportation infrastructure that will support our state’s economic growth will not stop. Business and community leaders from across New Hampshire recognize the need to invest in transportation options like rail that will help support business growth, attract workers and young professionals, and create jobs and economic development opportunities.

The Chamber, along with the many other stakeholders working to move this project forward, will continue our efforts to educate policymakers and the public on the positive economic impact of rail and investing in transportation infrastructure and explore all options on how to continue the significant progress that has been achieved over the last several years.”

Tracy Hatch, President and CEO of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce released the following statement in response to today’s vote not to restore rail funding:

“We are deeply disappointed in the vote today to refuse funding for the detailed planning phase of the Capitol Corridor project. We believe this decision is at best short-sighted. In reality, those who voted to deny this funding are taking the position that they don’t want real numbers before they make a final decision on whether rail should come to New Hampshire.

Recent polling indicates 74% of our state supports this project. Businesses across the state support it. We all deserve to have our state leaders see and understand the results of the detailed plan before they take a position on an issue that has such critical impact on our future.”

Earlier this year, the House Public Works & Highways committee voted 18-2 to approve NH’s Ten Year Transportation Improvement Plan, which included $4 million in funding for the critical project development phase of the Capitol Corridor project. This phase is essentially a due diligence step 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 full House ultimately voted—by just a 12-vote margin—to remove funding for project development from the Ten Year Transportation Improvement Plan.

About the NH Capitol Corridor Rail Expansion Project
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.  

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
  • $750 million 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 investment of $245.6 million, but through a combination of 50% 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 to account for debt service, operating and maintenance costs. Fare box revenues could reduce that figure by 50% and public-private partnerships could decrease costs even further.

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.

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 at www.nhrta.org.

About Carol Robidoux 6325 Articles
Longtime NH journalist and publisher of ManchesterInkLink.com. Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!