A logistically ironic item is up for discussion at the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority’s monthly meeting this Friday: repealing the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority.
Signed into law in 2007, the NHRTA was established to develop and provide “commuter rail and related public rail transportation services in New Hampshire.” In particular, the NHRTA is using federal grant money to develop plans for a return of passenger rail service through the so-called “capital corridor” from Boston to Nashua, Manchester and Concord.
House Bill 218, which passed the N.H. House last week by a 190-119 vote, would repeal the entity. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Dan McGuire (R-Epsom), is supported by House Transportation Committee Chair, Rep. Sherman Packard (R-Londonderry), who also serves as a legislative member on the NHRTA.
Republican House leaders have called for the elimination of the NHRTA because of potential taxpayer costs to establish expanded passenger rail service and a desire not to grow another level of government.
NHRTA supporters believe a revival of passenger rail service could spur economic development and decrease automobile congestion along the Interstate 93 and Everett Turnpike corridors.
The NHTRA receives no state money and is staffed by volunteers — and its grant application efforts are funded by more $120,000 raised by private businesses (for more about business community opposition to HB 218, see a recent NH Journal article here).
One recent statewide poll on extending capital corridor service shows that House Republicans may be bucking public opinion. The UNH Survey Center poll released last month pegged 75.4 percent of respondents favoring an extension of rail service, while 5.4 percent opposed it. Indications are that support cuts across geographical and political lines.
House Bill 218 now heads to the Senate Transportation Committee. Senate President Peter Bragdon (R-Milford) was a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 75, the 2007 measure that created the NHRTA.
>> Friday, March 25, monthly meeting of the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority, Legislative Office Building, Room 201, 10:00 a.m.
This Daily Dispatch was written by Michael McCord.