The New Hampshire House of Representatives’ Public Works and Highway Committee is presently pulling together the details of its 10-year highway plan, and there has been a suggestion, resulting from data derived from an earlier study, that a good amount of dollars be pushed toward investigating the economic feasibility of passenger rail development as a means of spurring fiscal growth.
A group of politicians and business leaders has been pushing to extend passenger rail into the state and are now asking state lawmakers to spend $4 million on a study as part of the highway plan.
Officials said this is all about getting the right people for the right jobs in New Hampshire and a study needs to be done to see if passenger trains are one way of getting that done. Supporters believe an expansion of commuter rail travel in New Hampshire will mean thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in development.
“It allows us to really dig into this project, see the costs and the benefits and to then have a discussion as a state about what the best way to move forward is, how to fund it and do the costs outweigh the benefits,” said Michael Skelton, of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.
The $4 million in question would be primarily federal money and thus of no cost to local taxpayers. The study would aim to answer many questions about expanding commuter rail from Boston to Manchester, including cost concerns.
“Bringing passenger rail to Manchester would have a transformative impact on New Hampshire's statewide economy,” said David Preece, of the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority.
A 2015 study, which supporters have leaned on as evidentiary, had showed that 668,000 riders would potentially use the commuter rail, if it could be built with four stops in the state: two in Nashua, one near the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport and another in the Granite Street area of Manchester.