Rail hopes gain steam

  • U.S. Representative Chris Pappas (D-NH-01) and Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig at Delta Dental Stadium on Aug. 30, 2021. Andrew Sylvia—Manchester Ink Link

  • Passengers board a Missouri River Runner Amtrak train in Lee's Summit, Mo. As the U.S. emerges from the COVID-19 crisis, Missouri is becoming a cautionary tale for the rest of the country: It is seeing an alarming rise in cases because of a combination of the fast-spreading delta variant and stubborn resistance among many people to getting vaccinated. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File) CHARLIE RIEDEL / AP

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    KEVIN GUTTINGThe Amtrak Vermonter stops in Northampton en route from Springfield to Greenfield on a special inaugural train ride for government officials and press Monday. When the Vermonter's new route and schedule along the "Knowledge Corridor" starts December 29, service through Northampton will consist of a southbound stop at 1:31 p.m. and a northbound stop at 4:03 p.m. KEVIN GUTTING

Manchester Ink Link
Published: 9/3/2021 10:17:21 PM

Last week, Congressman Chris Pappas, D-NH, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig and other state and local business and government leaders joined with representatives of Amtrak at Delta Dental Stadium to discuss updates on the commuter rail platform proposed in downtown Manchester.

Currently, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation is planning four new rail platforms in Southern New Hampshire: one in South Nashua, one on Crown Street in Nashua, one in Bedford adjacent to Manchester-Boston Regional Airport and one just beyond the rightfield fence of Delta Dental Stadium that would also have an access point just north of Market Basket on Elm Street.

Pappas said that the current infrastructure legislation working its way through Congress includes what Pappas described as the largest federal investment in passenger rail in U.S. history.

“This is a project that continues to bubble from the bottom up here in New Hampshire,” said Pappas regarding passenger rail expansion in New Hampshire. “I hear about it everywhere I go, residents who are looking for an opportunity to get to work, businesses that are looking to attract the kind of talent they need and from local leaders who understand this can be an economic engine for New Hampshire.”

Craig added that the new downtown platform will hopefully be joined by an intermodal public transport hub which will connect rail commuters with existing Manchester Transit Authority buses.

She also noted a recent study by the New York Times ranking Manchester as 10th in the U.S. when it comes to “supercommuters” or commuters who require more than 90 minutes to get to or from their homes to work.

“Expanded rail will allow Manchester to experience new economic development opportunities, attract a youthful workforce, expand public transportation opportunities and increase access to employment in the greater Manchester area,” said Craig. “Manchester is a booming educational and economic hub and its growth is critical to our region and state’s success.”

Addressing past concerns of the financial self-sustainability of commuter rail service into New Hampshire’s Merrimack Valley corridor, Pappas noted that there are different models in terms of financing that can be used to support commuter rail such as federal grants and public-private partnerships in addition to commuter fees.

Pappas also praised Amtrak’s presence at the stadium on Monday, noting they would likely not be there if they didn’t think this project was serious.

“This is an idea whose time has come,” he said.

Pappas added that multiple train operators on the line, such as Amtrak, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) Commuter Line and others could also increase the financial health of the project. However, any planning would have to meet New Hampshire’s needs and that the New Hampshire Department of Transportation is in charge of project, and it could add additional stops in nearby communities if interest arises.

The Amtrak representatives would not commit to a time frame on when Amtrak trains would come to Manchester if grant funding became available, stating that it could take up to two years after the first grant application was submitted.

It was also noted that design studies would be needed and that sound mitigation for residents living near the tracks is possible, although the Amtrak representatives also noted that commuter trains are significantly quieter than freight trains.

Amtrak’s “Connects US” seeks to add 160 more communities to its current list of destinations by 2035. Currently, Amtrak has New Hampshire stops in Durham, Dover, Exeter and Claremont.

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