Committee Approving Rail Study Funds Another Good Step Forward

The Legislature continues to make rational choices for the state.

The new Legislature has repeated their impressive performance of the first week in January.

Amazing! On Jan. 9, the Joint Legislative Committee on the Capital Budget approved a request to use a tiny fraction of New Hampshire’s “toll credits” (a kind of federal specie or chit) to match Federal grants that will pay for the study of passenger rail service for the central corridor to Concord. Whew; I know, a little background may be in order.

New Hampshire has been trying to recreate rail service from Concord to Boston for several years. The New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority was created in 2007 by the Legislature to accomplish this complex task. As part of the effort, the Authority obtained two federal grants, totaling $4.1 million, to be used to pay for a study of the proposed project. The study would look at the advisability of including the proposed passenger rail service in New Hampshire’s transportation infrastructure. Among other things, it would study alternatives to rail, like busses, or more cars. 

The previous legislature (or at least the conservative majority thereof) made killing passenger rail a top priority on their political agenda. Sadly, they tried to do away with the Rail Authority, which had worked for four years without costing the taxpayers a penny. That effort failed. Then they set about defeating the effort to use the federal grants to make the study. That effort succeeded in the Executive Council. But then there was an election, and we have a new council, the majority of which supports passenger rail for New Hampshire. And now we have a House and a Senate, both of which have voted to let the study go forward.  That is very good news for the majority of citizens in our state who want to at least find out if passenger rail service from Concord to Boston might be at least as successful as the Downeaster, which increases its ridership every year.

Does this mean that trains will soon be running? No, it means a contractor chosen by DOT will conduct a professional study of the rail proposal, and report back.  Some of the people who voted to let the toll credits be used expect that the study will come out against the project. That may happen. But for the time being, a rational process has returned to the Statehouse, a process that may allow us to choose “rail or no” on the foundation of informed thought, rather than partisan presumption.

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steve forte January 17, 2013 at 12:48 PM
Toll roads are ineligable for federal hwy funds. We do pay a fed fuel tax, no reason to chase that money away and then replace it with another cost on ourselves.
Super Fun Size January 17, 2013 at 01:31 PM
Only Interstate highways are prohibited from adding new tolls when receiving federal funds.
steve forte January 17, 2013 at 01:39 PM
Are ya sure ? When they built the new road from everett tnpk to the airport they could not put a toll behind it or it would not qualify for federal funds. That road is south of the interstate.
Super Fun Size January 17, 2013 at 03:32 PM
That was the excuse they used, but it is not based in fact. That law states that you cannot ADD a toll to a INTERSTATE road if you received federal funds to build it. Rt 3 is not part of the Interstate system. Under 23 U.S.C. 129, Federal participation is allowed in the following five types of toll activities: Initial construction (except on the Interstate System) of toll highways, bridges, and tunnels, including the approaches to these facilities; Reconstructing, resurfacing, restoring, and rehabilitating of any existing toll facility; Reconstruction or replacement of free bridges or tunnels and conversion to toll facilities; Reconstruction of a free Federal-aid highway (except on the Interstate system) and conversion to a toll facility; and Preliminary studies to determine the feasibility of the above toll construction activities. http://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/tolling_pricing/toll_agreements.htm
Peter Walker February 02, 2013 at 04:26 PM
Agreed. After Hassan's current term concludes in two years Democrats will have held the governorship for 16 of the last 18 years. When is generating new jobs in New Hampshire going to start becoming a priority around here! This rail proposal's operating costs would be paid for in part by special property tax assessments on homes and business in towns close to the line in addition to the taxes you already are paying. Many are already stretched to the limit with current levels of property taxation. This is completely uneconomical to operate. Just add more buses if more capacity is needed. The bus line service currently in place works well.


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