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February 23. 2014 9:54PM

Nashua mayor keeps focus on passenger rail

NASHUA — With the Capitol Corridor Rail Study well under way, Nashua's mayor last week reemphasized her support for restoring passenger rail in the city.

"I happen to believe that if we can get rail into Nashua, it is just a matter of time before it moves into other places in the state," Mayor Donnalee Lozeau told the New Hampshire Union Leader. "Our business community is very interested in rail being here."

Previously, the Board of Aldermen unanimously supported bringing rail back to the Gate City, although the costs have yet to be determined. The Capitol Corridor Rail Study is an effort to nail down those costs, as well as determine ongoing operating expenses and potential ridership numbers. Previously, the cost estimate to restore passenger rail from Nashua to Concord was projected at up to $300 million.

"The early results of the study are good, but the challenge is going to be the operational costs and what those might be and what burden the city might have to pick up there," said Lozeau.

She believes a lot of people support the idea of passenger rail in southern New Hampshire but have concerns about the financial details.

"I think that is a fair discussion to say, OK, how do we pay for operating. I think Nashua is going to have to determine what role we play in that, and I think it is a little too soon to do that because we don't know what the costs are," said the mayor.

Lozeau is a proponent of constructing a future Exit 36 south off the F.E. Everett Turnpike at the border in Tyngsborough, Mass., a separate initiative that has been discussed and studied for quite some time. She is hopeful that a multi-modal transit center could possibly be built at that location.

"I have my heart set on Exit 36 south and a Crown Street station," said Lozeau, contending there would be many positive opportunities for the city if a train station stopped in the center of the community rather than traveling through it.

City officials previously purchased property at 25 Crown St. for $1.4 million that could be used as a park and ride location and, in the future, a rail station.

"If you redevelop the eastern gateway and it becomes very transit oriented, that becomes a revenue source for the city," Lozeau said. In addition, she said, if more people are able to utilize commuter rail, it would assist with the everyday wear and tear on city roadways.

Lozeau said rail must be considered part of the infrastructure in Nashua. She acknowledges that there are already challenges with trying to find adequate funding to improve existing infrastructure problems in the city such as paving and drainage, which Lozeau says needs to be a priority.

"I think we are doing what we need to do right now," she said of the rail efforts. "Nashua has lent its voice on multiple occasions, and I believe we will continue to let legislators know that we support rail to Nashua and we support the Capitol Corridor."

In her State of the City address last week, Lozeau said 2014 will be a pivotal year for passenger rail. The preliminary analysis of rail ridership estimates that more than 3,100 boardings per weekday can be accepted, according to the mayor, who said these numbers appear to be within the acceptable range of the Federal Transit Authority and Federal Rail Authority for consideration of federal funds in support of the project.

"Later this year, we will all have a better idea about the critical details, including how much this will cost," she said.

khoughton@newstote.com


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