Let’s be honest: It would be lovely to see the return of commuter rail to our fine city, but I’m not sure I will witness it in my lifetime.
It’s an excellent concept on paper, but then you consider the cost of building a new train station in the proper location and the modern infrastructure that goes with it, and it becomes more complicated than one might think. A $5 million-plus price tag isn’t peanuts.
The old Crown Street area seems like an ideal spot that could include a park-and-ride facility. But there’s been talk about another potential location for the train station — off Daniel Webster Highway. City officials are looking into an area near the former Dow Chemical Corp. site at 2 East Spit Brook Drive. The parcel has a new owner who would like to see a train station built nearby.
I was driving along the DW Highway recently. It’s already a busy road that’s gone through many changes over the decades. It’s still my favorite go-to retail/restaurant road. I remember heading to the A&W for a root beer float as a kid, shopping at Gene & Rita’s Country Store, dining at Shakey’s Pizza and many other popular establishments that no longer exist.
I’m now wondering what may take the place of the recently shuttered Friendly’s restaurant that sits right in front of the longstanding Tulley Automotive Group. The prominent auto dealership company could end up purchasing the property and further expand its enormous base at 147 DW Highway.
Could the DW Highway handle the added traffic if the city established a new train station in the neighborhood?
Ward 8’s Alderman Mary Ann Melizzi-Golja says the location would be of utmost concern to avoid further congestion, and I agree.
“The Daniel Webster Highway can’t handle anymore. Exit 1 can’t handle anymore,” she remarked during an Aldermanic Committee on Infrastructure meeting. Melizzi-Golja also added that motorists merging at Crown Street is another concept she’s having trouble envisioning.
The Nashua Rail Transit Committee is thoughtfully studying all these details. And the Gate City continues working jointly with the state to bring passenger rail north of Massachusetts.
Some folks believe commuter rail is dead, but is it? For one thing, Amtrak ridership is up. And look at the state of Texas. By 2024, passengers will be able to travel from Dallas to Houston in 90 minutes. The privately funded bullet train using Japanese rail technology will be able to reach speeds of 200 mph.
Mayor Donchess remains optimistic about our city’s return to commuter rail and dubbed the Crown, Temple and East Hollis streets area the Rail Yard District in his State of the City speech last February. He sees new housing and hundreds of new downtown residents filling in the old train station neighborhood within a couple of years.
“The rumble of the railroad and the whistle of the steam engine have not been heard for many decades, but in the years to come we will be seeing the lighted windows of living rooms and the hurrying feet of new downtowners in Nashua’s Rail Yard District,” he said.
That’s quite a Norman Rockwell image Donchess is painting. I’m just not sure Gate City residents are all aboard.