Nashua hires rail consultants, weighs options for restoring passenger service
By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
April 20. 2018 8:38PM
Nashua officials have approved a consulting contract with AECOM of Los Angeles, Calif., to help with the city's ongoing initiative to bring passenger rail into Nashua. (Kimberly Houghton/File photo)
NASHUA — Rail consultants hired to help bring passenger rail service to the city will earn $125 to $330 an hour, with $100,000 set aside in an escrow fund to cover the cost.
The aldermanic finance committee approved the contract with AECOM of Los Angeles earlier this week.
Tim Cummings, Nashua’s director of economic development, said Nashua needs the expertise.
“We don’t have that internal rail expertise, and that is why we wanted to bring that outside counsel to help us and guide us,” he said.
The consulting firm includes Frank DePaola, former general manager of the MBTA and former chief operating officer of MassDOT. The contract for help restoring commuter rail service includes study and design of needed rail infrastructure upgrades and advice on achieving state and federal funding to pay for it.
“The contract will be an on-call services contract with each individual assignment or task separately authorized by (the) Department of Economic Development after review of a proposed level of effort and price with a separate scope of work/tasks to be developed and attached,” the contract states.
Last fall, city leaders entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Boston Surface Railroad Company (BSRC) to create a plan to bring privately-funded passenger rail service to Nashua. A consulting expert is necessary to help review documents and provide special advice to the city as it moves forward, according to Cummings. The rail consultants will help protect Nashua’s interests and position the city appropriately when planning for rail, he said.
“What I want to make sure is that the city of Nashua has retained counsel to help us, specifically with BSRC,” Cummings said.
That said, the economic development director believes expert consultants also will be beneficial in the city’s dealings with a similar initiative the state is pursuing to foster rail in New Hampshire.
Gov. Chris Sununu included $4 million in his recommendations for the state’s 10-year transportation plan, although he had voted against the study when serving on the Executive Council.
“I put it in the plan, so obviously I am supportive,” the governor said last month. “Whether it stays in the Senate or not, I don’t know.”
Sununu said he was shocked when House members voted to keep the $4 million study in the transportation plan.
“I assumed the House would have taken it out,” he said.
While there are benefits to passenger rail service, Sununu stressed the $4 million in federal dollars is just a study.
Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess is supportive of the privately-funded effort to bring commuter rail back to the city.
“There are a number of obstacles to overcome, but we are optimistic that this public-private partnership could bring rail service to Nashua,” he said earlier.
BSRC of Rhode Island is in the early stages of bringing rail from Bedford to Worcester, Mass., with stops in Nashua and Lowell, Mass.
Although the memorandum of understanding between Nashua and BSRC is not intended to be legally binding, it is meant to facilitate entering into a future binding agreement for rail service between Bedford and Worcester.
The new consultant will be responsible for reviewing submissions from BSRC, gathering information and materials, attending meetings and preparing reports and studies, drafting conceptual designs, cost estimating, scheduling, finding potential funding sources and handling legal issues, according to the email@example.com