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Letter: Transportation conversation should include rail, too

I applaud the recent Monitor editorial on the creative ideas, like the Boston-Montreal hotel train, that could help bring greater rail options to our state (“The slooooooooow route to Montreal,” Dec. 9). But it should be pointed out that the Saint Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad’s line from Portland to Montreal is well maintained and can easily support passenger rail service, as can the line the Downeaster uses from Boston to Portland. The line from Nashua to Concord, however, is in rough shape in comparison and would take a major effort for a train were to run at faster than 15 miles per hour on it. And that would take state and federal funds.

To those who think that is a bad use of money, remember that last week the New Hampshire Department of Transportation said it would not be able to maintain its road and bridge network with the tax revenue it currently gets. That will mean higher taxes just to close the gap in the short term and new funding sources in the long term. So, no, roads are not free – we all pay for them, just like rail. And, as with rail, not maintaining infrastructure is costly in the long run. So, yes, let’s expand the conversation to include rail again.

JAYME H. SIMOES

Concord

Mr. Simoes, you write "higher taxes just to close the gap in the short term and new funding sources in the long term" to keep the roads we already have up to par. Your plan is to now raise even more taxes (double, triple, or how high) so you can duplicate what already has been proven over and over again - passenger trains lose money........ You mention the Saint Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad as a "good" example. Here are a few facts from when discussion was brought up for passenger lines there. Out of the estimated $138 million cost, a private money goal was set at $20 million. That private money would be used for train platforms, stations and equipment, private money wanted only to get involved in the parts that generate revenue. Of course they were fine with the tax payers paying for the rest – so they could benefit the most. They cited a few methods for generating the tax dollars, one was to float a tax backed bond, another would raise taxes through higher property assessments for those near the railways. Seems they feel the property is now more valuable because one can hear the train whistle. So one pays higher state tax (the bond), higher Federal tax (the grants) and those property owners near the line pay a higher property tax. FOREVER. The good part, a few privates companies would control the only parts of the railroad that can actually generate revenue. The bad part, everyone else in the country gets to support the parts of the railroad that don’t generate any income…… The last I read the Downeaster was subsidized at about 40%.......Some still question why $17 Trillion and growing??

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