Pressure To Deliver.


I was hoping that the NH House would override the Gov. Lynch veto of H.B. 218 and the whole issue of the NH Rail Transit Authority would quietly go away.

It’s the wrong time to be considering expansion of passenger rail service in New Hampshire for a number of reasons; mainly capital but issues of long-term planning and the demographics of the state also come into play.

The house voted to sustain the Governor’s veto so the NH Rail Transit Authority and its autonomous bonding authority continue on in force. Look out taxpayers here it comes!!!!

I’ll make a prediction here of what comes next and also it doesn’t bode well for the NH taxpayer or any reasonable transportation policy goal in this state:

Starting with a history lesson: In 1980, the Gallen Administration supported with a federal grant; creating commuter rail service between Concord and Boston. The service was contracted through the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) that run the trains between the two points. And I’ll skip right to the point. The ridership on these trains was abysmal; the service was typical MBTA, cost overruns, late trains and at least one accident in the dead of winter. Did I say that the trains were mostly empty as well.  

So when the federal grant money ran out and the state had to take over of course the service was axed. I believe the price of gasoline measured in terms of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was actually higher back then then it is today. And NH residents still didn’t ride the trains.

Okay it’s 2012 and the NH Rail Transit Authority has survived H.B. 218 and is now under some amount of political pressure to deliver to cities like Nashua some type of rail service into Boston. And they have to do it soon, at least while they still have the popular Gov. Lynch in the corner office. I believe contracting with Amtrak will be out of the question. Amtrak is facing its own budget cutbacks from Washington and this national based carrier doesn’t like to do startup rail services without at least 2-3 years leadtime, this is also assuming that the physical infrastructure is in place to establish the service to begin with. This isn’t the case in New Hampshire.

So what will the NH Rail Transit Authority do?

Take the path of easiest political resistance. Contract with the MBTA again which is now called the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad (MBCR). And just like last time it won’t work.

Except this time, unlike the last the NH taxpayer will be on the hook to the tune of millions of dollars to finance and operate a service into Boston featuring late and empty trains and the continuing argument that New Hampshire needs alternative transportation systems like rail.