New Hampshire panel axes funding for regional commuter rail

By Christian Wade | The Center Square

The New Hampshire Executive Council has nixed a plan to connect Boston’s commuter rail system to the Granite State, which some have described as a “boondoggle” for the state’s taxpayers.

The Republican-controlled council voted 3-2 on Wednesday not to approve an amendment to the nearly $5.5 million contract with an engineering firm, which is conducting a federally funded analysis of the project feasibility.

Council members who opposed the extension argued the project isn’t financially viable, and argued it would result in higher taxes for the state’s inflation-wary residents.
“I think it is time to stop the bleeding in this project,” Councilor David Wheeler, a Milford Republican, said ahead of the vote. “I don’t think this is going anywhere.”

The state Department of Transportation had requested the extension from January 2023 to September 2023, saying the consulting firm needed more time to complete the project.

Council members rejected the extension despite having previously approved the contract with AECOM Technical Services Inc. in December 2020 to conduct preliminary engineering and design for the project.

In a request to the council, acting NHDOT Assistant Commissioner William Cass said the consulting firm needed more time to seek approvals from local governments, including Manchester and Nashua, get authorization from the Federal Transit Administration, and negotiate purchases of large tracts of land from property owners.

He said the work is about 72% complete, with a remaining balance in the contract of more than $1.5 million, all of which is federally funded.

The proposal, which has been discussed for years, calls for extending existing commuter rail service from Lowell, Massachusetts to Nashua or Manchester in New Hampshire to provide commuters with more options.

The rejection of the contract extension was praised by a conservative fiscal watchdog group, which said the project would be a “boondoggle” for New Hampshire taxpayers.

“Putting an end to this expensive fantasy now is the right move,” said Greg Moore, state director of the New Hampshire chapter of Americans for Prosperity. “Granite Staters know the state needs 21st century transportation solutions, not projects that benefit few residents but cost us hundreds of millions of dollars.”

The Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, a fiscally conservative think tank, pointed out that New Hampshire’s partner on the project, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority has “disastrous safety records and massive financial deficits” that prompted a federal investigation.

“The justification for building a costly commuter rail line from Boston into New Hampshire is evaporating rapidly,” the group said in a recent blog post. “No organization with such a dismal performance record should be given additional responsibilities, much less trusted with the lives of Granite State commuters.”

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Ale Sasso

8 thoughts on “New Hampshire panel axes funding for regional commuter rail

  1. AFP-NH only got the heads up from a taxpayer group in Bedford known as

    They compiled the facts and have been educating the council and legislature since 2018.

    Only last year did AFP-NH get on the no rail bandwagon, citing BRA’s research about the ‘boondoggle’ comment from King Sununu.

    Credit where credit is due.

  2. Remember the “Howard Dean Express”? Oh, I think it might have been the Champlain Flyer.
    When a Liberal pulls the plug, you know it has to be a bad idea.

  3. I would argue that Manchester and Nashua are not rural.

    The US and the States overall are very weak when it comes to infrastructure. RRs in Europe are light years ahead of the US and that includes both hi-speed and the condition of the train cars. If you look at US subways, trains, busses, and ROADS, we are so far behind. Europe has roads that were built over 200 years ago that are in better condition than US roads built 5 years ago.

    • And I would argue that all the passenger rail fanbois and pompom girls continue to be wrong about utility of passenger rail in this country. It never ever paid for itself and even during the so-called Golden Age of Rail it was always financially dependent on the freight lines success.

      As for the “superiority” of European infrastructure, it’s easy to spend cash when they don’t have to spend it defending themselves.

  4. Commuter rail don’t work in rural areas. It’s been tried here every time
    the feds send money to promote it and every time it falls on it’s face. If you can’t walk from the train station to where you need to be it’s not saving you any money. Only good thing to ride the rails is freight.

  5. Just to give you a heads up, I hope you see this old plan playing out- again.

    I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen these rail dreams get voted down in my life.
    And now it all has- AGAIN-.

    This is what these fantasyland believers do, over and over again.
    They hope the opposition has all died or moved away so they have a go at it again- every 10 years or so, hoping that there is enough support there to sneak it all in finally.

    Now that Vermont is even more blue than it was, they’ll be trying to get all their pet projects passed this time too.
    This is what they do..
    People need to be vigilant. Nothing we vote NO on seems to ever go away forever- it just gets tabled for a while- only to resurface again, in the dead of night, when there is a blizzard and only two people show up- then out they come- oddly they passed unanimously this time they say.. *eyeroll*
    Yup, seen this show plenty.

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