Letter: Abandoning rail in N.H. was a big mistake
New Hampshire has spent a half a century neglecting what was once a great rail network. Instead we have poured billions into a road system we strain to keep updated.
You can drive from Concord to Lebanon or Littleton on a four-lane highway and not pay a penny – and the cost to maintain those roads is paid by taxpayers. We invest billions in expanding Interstate 93 from Salem to Manchester, but the road on either end remains the same, meaning the morning commute into Boston will see more cars dumped into an inadequate roadway, and Friday tourist traffic will be even more bogged down in Concord. Meanwhile, across the border in Maine, the Downeaster, with public support, has been successfully expanded to Brunswick. After a decade of Downeaster service, Portland’s downtown has four major new hotels, as the weekend trip from Boston to Portland is easy – bypassing the traffic and tolls on Interstate 95.
Tourism is our second biggest industry, and rail service would make Manchester and Concord a little over an hour away from North Station, bringing tourism, business, and commuters.
With gas flirting with $4 a gallon, shifting from cars to rail makes sense: Cars equal nearly three-quarters of U.S. oil consumption. Moving passengers from cars to trains can relieve highway congestion and slash the amount of oil we consume.
Abandoning rail in New Hampshire was a mistake. As fuel prices soar, we need to keep transportation affordable. We need to find a balance of rail, roads, and other new ideas. Rail is cost-effective, energy-efficient, and we can no longer look at it as a political issue, but one that is crucial to the economy of Concord, New Hampshire and New England.
JAYME H. SIMOES