They Don't Know Best.

 

I'm not going to be polite in this blog I read this garbage in the Union Leader this morning and my first immediate thought: let the legislation pass. please!!!

Some explanation: This is the NH Rail Authority bill to dissolve this appointed state agency that has the authority to issue millions of dollars in state indebtedness in the form of bonding. Their stated purpose is the establishment of passenger rail service into southern New Hampshire including such places as Manchester and Concord.

I'll let you read the farce on your own.

Source: Union Leader.

Another View: Will NH disconnect from America's rail network?



 

By MALCOLM TAYLOR

There's a lot being said about whether to bring railroads back to New Hampshire and whether to rebuild the tracks for the return of passenger trains from Boston. This is a most important time to be discussing this, for the state Senate has before it a bill to abolish the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority. If enacted into law, it would take us out of the running for federal rail planning and engineering funds. 

In July of 2007 the Legislature established the authority and gave it the mandate to look into bringing back commuter rail service first to Nashua, then to Manchester and, via what has become the N.H. Capital Corridor, Concord. Now legislation has passed the House (House Bill 218) to cancel all that.

The federal government has made a combined $4.1 million available to New Hampshire to determine if revitalizing rail service here, as it has in neighboring states, makes sense. If so, how might this best be accomplished? There is overwhelming public support.

Upon hearing that Amtrak would soon discontinue its Montrealer train service from New York City back in 1995, Vermont took it upon itself to inaugurate Vermonter passenger service along the Connecticut River Valley. That service runs to New York City and on into Washington, D.C. To accommodate riders on the west side of Vermont, Ethan Allen daily rail service from Rutland into New York City via Albany was added. Now the Green Mountain State hopes to upgrade its rails north from Rutland into Burlington, perhaps with funding New Hampshire is about to turn down.

In 2001, Maine inaugurated its now five-daily round-trip Downeaster passenger service between Portland and Boston via Dover, Durham and Exeter. Mainers have received federal financing to extend their rails on to Brunswick, where they are well positioned to extend to Montreal.

All of this is happening while Massachusetts is proceeding to upgrade its east-west Boston to Albany Patriot Corridor and its north-south Knowledge (for all the colleges along the way) Rail Corridor connecting Vermont to Springfield, Mass., and on to New Haven, Conn., where it meets Amtrak's Northeast Corridor.

As one views a map of northern New England, the rail lines seem to run around New Hampshire. This raises the question of whether the Granite State, looking ahead, can afford not to participate in this nation's railroad renaissance now under way.

What do Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts know that New Hampshire doesn't? Those supporting HB 218, seriously hobbling New Hampshire's chances at bringing back rail service, express fears that should the rail authority accept federal planning funds, we will be committed to spending at some future date. Added to these fears is that by funding rail we will take away from needed highway dollars. This is not so. There is a separate rail and transit trust fund, started by Ronald Reagan in 1982. By signing into law a five-cent per gallon gasoline tax increase, he set aside one cent for transit.

All modes of transportation are subsidized, either directly or indirectly. The federal Highway Trust Fund is now forced to borrow $8 billion from the general fund to support what the American Society of Civil Engineers terms as our nation's "crumbling highway infrastructure." Air transportation? How about all those municipal, county and port authority airports, their access roads, the Federal Aviation Administration's "highways in the sky," National Weather Service, security? The maritime sector? Navigational aids, GPS, Coast Guard, coastal mapping, Army Corps of Engineers to dredge harbors, state piers, more security.

And what about buses, often mentioned as the "free market" alternative to passenger rail? Would you believe that our state now owns 34 buses on loan to Concord Coach, Boston Express and the C & J bus company? Added to this are those state-of-the-art taxpayer financed bus depots at Exits 4 and 5 off I-93, one in Nashua, another in Salem, at Dover and in Portsmouth with parking for 1,000 cars.

Remember that rails don't just move passengers. We in northern New England are precariously at the end of this nation's food and energy pipeline. The costs of getting such heavy, bulky commodities as home heating oil, diesel, bituminous binder for our frost-heaved roads, building supplies, aggregates, salt and coal by truck are among the highest in the nation. For such loads, rails are many times more efficient, less costly and less damaging to our highways.

So shouldn't New Hampshire get on board?

Malcolm Taylor of Holderness is the Lakes Region representative to the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority. These comments are his own and not necessarily those of the authority.