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April 08. 2013 10:55PM

Nashua alderman:City needs rail study

NASHUA - A local alderman is recommending that an ad hoc committee be established to help officials fully understand and prepare for the financial costs associated with bringing rail to Nashua.

With an 18-month rail study under way by the state, Alderman Daniel Moriarty, Ward 9, believes now is the time for the city to initiate a similar effort focusing solely on the impact rail will have in the Gate City.

"I think that we are obligated to look into this further," Moriarty said on Monday. "All of us aldermen support rail, but I believe that we really need to substantiate that claim."

Moriarty is sponsoring a proposed resolution that, if approved by the full Board of Aldermen, would form an ad hoc committee to study the benefits and price tag of operating rail services in Nashua. The resolution will be presented to aldermen Tuesday night, when the board will have its first reading of the proposal.

According to the resolution, commuter rail in Nashua is expected to provide benefits to local citizens and businesses, however the operation and maintenance of commuter rail in the city will have associated costs that have not yet been determined.

"The Board of Aldermen should be informed and be prepared to address legislation regarding right of way, financing and administration of commuter rail servicing the citizens of Nashua," says the resolution.

Moriarty is proposing that the committee include three aldermen and two city residents. The group could meet monthly for nine months and then submit a final report to the Board of Aldermen, according to the proposal.

"I still believe that commuter rail is a good thing for Nashua, but we need to get access to all of the information out there," said Moriarty. "Nashua needs to figure out how we are going to pay for this. My intentions are not to make this propaganda, but a neutral effort."

His recommendation comes just two months after the Board of Aldermen voted to spend $1.4 million to purchase two parcels at 25 Crown St. that will be used as a park and ride facility and possibly a train station. The vote took place one week after the Executive Council approved a $3.6 million rail study to determine whether bringing rail back to New Hampshire would be feasible.

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said previously that once the Crown Street property is acquired by the city, officials will have time to pursue the train station option - after reviewing information from the completed rail study - while moving forward with the commuter park and ride lot.

At the time, Moriarty opposed the land purchase, saying that while he supports rail and would appreciate having a train station, a better location would be near Exit 2 in south Nashua as opposed to the Crown Street site.

He maintains that a lot of upgrades will be necessary to make the Crown Street property feasible, saying there is much more to the project than the $1.4 million land buy, which is being funded with a combination of federal dollars and state toll credits.

According to Lozeau, the location is ideal because it is the only downtown area where there is 800 feet of straight train track that already exists. Still, it could take at least six years for a train station to be operating from the site, as the city will have to overcome several obstacles, the mayor said earlier.

From the time Lozeau began her campaign for mayor, she has voiced support for bringing rail from Boston, Mass., into Nashua. But the mayor doesn't just want a train to travel through Nashua; she ultimately wants to have a train stop in the city so residents can easily take advantage of passenger rail.

If authorized by city officials, the proposed committee will study those various initiatives, specifically focusing on the benefits and costs to the city, according to the resolution.

khoughton@newstote.com


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