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Nashua inks deal to craft private rail plan

Union Leader Correspondent

October 11. 2017 11:48PM

NASHUA — City officials are taking the next step in helping to bring commuter rail into the Gate City.

On Tuesday, the Board of Aldermen voted to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Boston Surface Railroad Company to create a plan to bring privately-funded passenger rail service to Nashua.

“If this could be accomplished, this would be a very significant step forward for Nashua,” said Mayor Jim Donchess.

Boston Surface Railroad Company of Rhode Island is in the early stages of working to bring rail from Bedford to Worcester, Mass., with stops in Lowell, Mass., and Nashua.

Although the memorandum of understanding is not intended to be legally binding, it is intended to promote and facilitate entering into a future binding agreement for passenger rail service between Bedford and Worcester.

Under the agreement, BSRC will develop and deliver a plan to establish passenger rail services to the communities involved, obtain federal regulatory approval for the plan, issue Nashua and the other communities 1 percent of the overall Series A Common stock of BSRC and give Nashua a seat at the Financial Oversight Committee.

If a final plan is supported, Nashua would own one percent of BSRC, according to Donchess, who said the city would work to support promotion and development of the plan.

“Of course there are many steps to go before we complete this,” he told aldermen on Tuesday.

Rail would help reduce the amount of traffic on local roadways, reduce air emissions, alleviate some of the stop-and-go grind on the highways and improve the quality of life for Nashua citizens, according to Donchess, who has been an avid supporter of rail for many years.

This new initiative with a private company would not require any subsidies from Nashua or the state, stressed Donchess.

Vincent Bono of BSRC is hopeful that the rail project, if it comes to fruition, will be profitable in less than five years after operations begin.

BSRC, based in Woonsocket, R.I., was founded in 2012 with a mission to provide passenger rail service between underserved cities with moderate to dense cross-commuter traffic, according to its website.

“I really think that intercity passenger rail should be privately run,” Bono said recently. “If the stars all aligned, I would be ecstatic if we could have a train running in four years.”

He admits the process will be long, and the price-tag has not yet been determined. Venture capital, private funds and a government loan program would be utilized, according to Bono, who said the municipalities involved will not have to fork over any money, but will need to commit to a private-public partnership with the railroad company. In addition, Nashua would be financially responsible for building its own train station.

There was no discussion among aldermen about the proposal on Tuesday. No one from the public spoke in favor or in opposition to the plan.

Nashua Transportation Local and County Government

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