Executive Councilors voted 4-1 on Wednesday to waste $3.6 million in the first phase of a misguided effort to waste more than a quarter of a billion dollars on a colossal boondoggle: commuter rail in a state in which rural areas comprise 97 percent of the area and hold 40 percent of the people.
The $3.6 million is to pay for another study of commuter rail in New Hampshire (the state would kick in more than $300,000 of that). As Josh Elliott-Traficante of the Josiah Bartlett Center noted on Tuesday, the state already has completed two studies of commuter rail in the past six years. They showed that just building a rail line would cost between $265 million and $300 million, and operating it would cost about $11 million a year. No one has the money to do that.
Why undertake yet another study? Because the previous ones did not reach the conclusion rail boosters wanted: That commuter rail is economically viable in New Hampshire. They hope to torture the data enough this time to claim something that plainly is not true.
Commuter rail is supported by a vocal group of commuters, politicians and business people who believe that they would personally benefit from a rail line paid for by others. Because they anticipate that others will bear the costs, they will never stop pursuing it. It will be up to responsible legislators to thwart the pursuit.