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Nashua aldermen: City rail study not needed

Union Leader Correspondent

May 06. 2013 10:55PM

NASHUA - Three city officials on Monday spoke in opposition to a proposal to create an ad hoc committee to study 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.

However, at least three aldermen say the proposed creation of an ad hoc committee to study rail locally would duplicate state efforts.

Alderman Brian McCarthy, board president, said that while he understands the intent of the proposal, it doesn't make sense to conduct a city study that the state is already handling professionally.

Earlier this year, the Executive Council approved a $3.6 million rail study to determine whether bringing rail back to New Hampshire would be feasible. Shortly thereafter, 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, in the future, a train station.

Nashua officials need to fully understand how much it will cost to operate commuter rail in the city, how much ticket prices will be for residents, how rail might impact local businesses and whether the Board of Aldermen needs to approve legislation to enable rail to be implemented in the city, Moriarty told the aldermanic Personnel and Administrative Affairs Committee.

A previous study, according to Moriarty, indicated that Nashua would need to subsidize about $2.5 million a year for commuter rail operations.

Although that may not sound like a huge number, Moriarty said, it is a prediction and other details need to be analyzed.

McCarthy argued that a Nashua rail study would be redundant to the 18-month study under way by the state, adding "I personally would feel silly."

"It is like we are doing the work twice," Alderman Paul Chasse said.

Another board member, Alderman June Caron, said the state is doing its due diligence with the rail study, and that Nashua should not be trying to work at opposite ends.

"That is an interesting piece of logic," Moriarty said following the meeting, adding he was confused as to why his fellow board members choose to "remain ignorant and remain uninformed" about an issue that could have significant impacts on the Gate City.

While all of the aldermen support rail, Moriarty maintains that the board must substantiate that claim and look into the matter further.

The resolution was tabled Monday by the aldermanic Personnel and Administrative Affairs Committee, which decided not to vote on the matter.

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, preferably one that is opposed to rail. The group could meet monthly for nine months and then submit a final report to the Board of Aldermen, according to the proposal.

Moriarty previously opposed the Crown Street land purchase where a future train station could be built, 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 many upgrades will be necessary to make the Crown Street property feasible, adding 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 Mayor Donnalee 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 begin operating from the site, as the city will have to overcome several obstacles, the mayor said earlier.

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