NASHUA — Boston Surface Railroad Company, the entity working with the city to potentially bring passenger rail to Nashua, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
According to Vincent Bono, president of BSRC, the decision to file for bankruptcy is a strategic move that resulted from a political dispute with the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.
“We are not going anywhere. There is still a lot of work to be done and we are pretty optimistic,” he said on Thursday.
Bono said BSRC is still in open discussions with Nashua leaders, but its plan to explore federal funds with the city to potentially bring rail to Nashua is “sort of on hold.”
More than two years ago, the city entered into a memorandum of understanding with BSRC to create a plan to bring privately-funded passenger rail service to the Gate City.
And, in 2018, the city hired AECOM of Los Angeles, Calif., to provide rail consulting services to help with that initiative. At the time, officials said a consulting expert is necessary to help review documents and provide special advice to the city as it moves forward with its partnership with BSRC, in order to help protect Nashua’s interests and position the city appropriately when planning for rail.
Bono stressed Thursday that he will not let his investment go to the wayside, explaining he has already forked over $1.5 million of his own money, and debt, to get the company off the ground.
The bankruptcy filing is intended to protect the company’s assets, he said, adding there will be no discharging of debt and no stocks will be liquidated.
“I will probably take a hit as the guy at the helm, but that is what it is,” said Bono.
BSRC is working not only with Nashua, but also with Worcester, Mass., Lowell, Mass and Woonsocket, R.I., to potentially bring passenger rail to those communities.
According to Bono, the RIDOT lobbied for the rail company to take over the Historic Depot train station in Woonsocket, R.I. However, Bono said it now wants the train station back — just a few months before SCRC is set to launch its intercity bus service.
The bankruptcy decision should not impact New Hampshire’s efforts to secure rail, according to Bono. Since New Hampshire currently has a public rail option on the table with the proposed New Hampshire Capitol Corridor rail expansion project, there is not much opportunity for BSRC in New Hampshire, he said.
“I have been saying forever that I am a real advocate for rail. I would love to see rail service in New Hampshire,” said Bono. Still, as the state pursues its own project development phase for the Capitol Corridor, true cost numbers will be available, he explained.
This likely won’t be completed for about four years, meaning BSRC will be long done with its Chapter 11 filing and already proceeding with rail in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, according to Bono.
“We will be in a wait and see mode for New Hampshire,” he added.
Although the memorandum of understanding with Nashua 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.
“There are a number of obstacles to overcome, but we are optimistic that this public-private partnership could bring rail service to Nashua,” Mayor Jim Donchess said earlier.
In 2014, Nashua aldermen voted to acquire a downtown property at 25 Crown St. for $1.4 million. Officials had two major plans for the site — a park and ride lot and a possible future train station.