The politics of the Capitol Corridor.

 

  These are the March minutes from the New Hampshire Railroad Revitalization Association, a non governmental agency. However the New Hampshire Railroad Transportation Authority is a governmental agency. And in these minutes I found some issues that concern me:

1. Corridor Analysis- This is the proposed commuter rail between Boston and southern New Hampshire note they haven't said anything about market analysis or exactly how many people would be using this service. But still they push on. Picture millions of dollars being spent for empty seats to roll into Manchester.

2.  Letter of Agreement with NHDOT- The New Hampshire Department of Transportation is going to implement NHRTA policy and provide administrative support. This approved by Gov. Lynch. Is this what the Legislature intended when they started the NHRTA? At one time former Senator Peter Burling sent out a request to business leaders in places like Manchester and Nashua to get involved with the NHRTA including possibly providing funding and administrative support. I think Burling was simply looking for someone to answer the telephone!  So where are the business leaders former Senator Burling?

I think this whole idea is a non starter. If New Hampshire is interested in railroad revitalization and the Capitol Corridor then the starting place should be close coordination with surrounding states in both passenger and freight issues. With the significant capital costs rail can only be effective where there is volume of freight and passenger over a distance that is greater than 100 miles, if it isn't than the highway becomes more competitive and affordable. The Amtrak Downeaster and to a lesser extent the Amtrak Vermonter are examples of this. In both of these cases there is a significant amt. of freight traffic on these lines which can help lower the overall fixed costs creating a viable market or at least an attempt at a market for the passenger trains. Even then both require a taxpayer subsidy.

This environment doesn't exist in New Hampshire. I don't see New Hampshire working with other states in regional cooperation in these areas either.

Tom reported on the latest NHRTA meeting as follows:

 

1. New NHRTA Board Appointments- Gov. Lynch has appointed Sen. Martha Fuller Clark to fill the seat vacated by Peter Burling necessitated by his leaving the Senate. Peter Burling is back on the Board - he was reappointed by Gov. Lynch to an at-large seat newly created by legislation.

2. Funding -Lisa Levine (Rep. Hodes Staffer ) reported that NH will get $1.9 million for the NH Capitol Corridor alternatives analysis from Hodes’ earmark on the 2009 omnibus funding bill. She said the larger funding needed for corridor construction must come from the 2010 Federal DOT 5-year reauthorization. Kit Morgan (NHDOT) reported that the guidelines for applying for federal stimulus fundsare supposed to be available in April. He said NHDOT, in coordination with the NHRTA, will apply for Capitol Corridor funds.

3. Election of Officers & Executive Committee - The Board voted the following: Peter Burling, Chairman; Steve Williams, Vice-Chair; Kathy Hersh, Secretary; David Preece, Treasurer.These officers plus MikeIzbicki, Ron O'Blenis, Tim Moore, Mark Brewer and Christine Walker make up the nine-member Executive Committee.

4. Letter of Agreement with NHDOT -Chairman Burling announced that, with Gov. Lynch's approval, NHRTA will enter into a Letter of Agreement with DOT for them to implement NHRTA policy and to provide administrative assistance until such time that NHRTA has its own funding and staff.

 

The next NHRTA meeting is tentatively scheduled for May 8.