The Soapbox: Manchester needs passenger rail

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Stand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.

Did you know that New Hampshire’s Merrimack Valley is the most populous metro area in New England that does not have passenger rail service?

For decades people have been working to reinstate passenger rail service to Boston. The project has suffered from fits and starts over the years depending on who was in control of the State House.

Recently a consulting firm had been working on the engineering study and preliminary design phase of the New Hampshire Capitol Corridor Rail Project. Sadly, the Republican-controlled Executive Council, including Manchester’s Councilor Ted Gatsas, pulled the plug on the consultants right before Christmas.

On February 3, the NH House Public Works and Highways Committee will hold a hearing on HB110. This bill specifically targets the Capitol Corridor Rail Project and forbids the state from spending any state money on the project.

There are lots of things the state pays for that I will never use, but I don’t begrudge the people who need them. I’m happy to help my fellow Granite Staters.

Currently Manchester, the largest city in the state, has very limited public transportation options to get to Boston. There is one bus that leaves from downtown Manchester at 5:40 a.m. and returns at 7 p.m.

Businesses located in the millyard and UNH Manchester have stated that they would benefit from a commuter rail system that could bring employees from Boston and allow students to travel to and from the UNH Manchester campus.

An estimated 80,000 Granite Staters commute to Boston for work. Boston has been rated one of the top ten worst cities in the world for traffic. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent and has stated, in no uncertain terms, that they do not want to expand I-93 or Route 3. They want to reduce the number of vehicles coming into the city. This is why they offered to provide the engines and cars for the rail project.

Recently the federal government appropriated significant funds directed at upgrading and expanding America’s rail systems. It would be a shame to leave this money on the table when we could use it to expand rail service to Nashua and Manchester.

Upgrading the tracks and rebuilding the rail bridge in Bedford will also make the tracks safer for the freight carriers who transport cement, coal, and industrial chemicals through the state.

Passenger rail has been a great boon to the Seacoast towns served by the Amtrak Downeaster and the Connecticut Valley enjoys the benefits of Amtrak’s Vermonter. Additional revenues from rail-inspired economic growth in Manchester and Nashua will benefit the entire state. I hope the members of the NH House see that and agree with 75 percent of New Hampshire residents that the Capitol Corridor rail Project is an idea worth investing in.

Beg to differ? Agree to disagree? Send your thoughtful prose on topics of general interest to, subject line: The Soapbox.

About this Author

Kathy Staub

Kathy Staub is a NH State Representative for Hillsborough District 25.