Deadlocked New Hampshire Senate kills commuter rail study

Tie vote ends effort to go ahead with $4 million federally funded study


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Dashing the hopes of businesspeople and other proponents from Nashua to Manchester, the NH Senate has rejected the effort to authorize spending $4 million to conduct a study of the proposed expansion of commuter rail from Boston to Manchester.

On May 4, the Senate deadlocked at 12-12 on a bid to keep the rail study funding in the state’s 10-year transportation plan. The tie vote – Republican Sens. Dan Innis of Portsmouth and Kevin Avard of Nashua joined all 10 Senate Democrats in favor of the funding – was not enough to move the funding bid forward.

The $4 million study would be paid for solely by federal funding. The study would provide a detailed analysis of engineering, environmental and geotechnical aspects of the proposal along with a financial plan for expanding passenger rail from Boston to Manchester.

Some 110 business leaders and organizations, including the Greater Manchester and Greater Nashua Chambers of Commerce, backed the effort, which would have meant that $4 million in federal funding could be used to conduct the feasibility study.

Gov. Chris Sununu’s on-again, off-again stance on the issue probably didn’t help in winning more Republican support.

As a candidate and in his first year in office, the governor opposed studying the feasibility of the commuter rail project. But he switched gears in the days leading up to the state’s unveiling of a proposal to be the site of Amazon’s second headquarters, or HQ2. But after that bid failed, the governor’s went back to opposing rail.

The pro-rail business group NH Business for Rail Expansion, voiced dismay at the outcome.

“This vote to reject $4 million in federal funding, which would provide critical data needed to determine the viability of passenger rail expansion from Boston to Manchester, is terribly shortsighted and sends a negative message to New Hampshire businesses desperately seeking to expand their talent pool and fill thousands of jobs,” said spokesman E.J. Powers. “It also stands in direct contrast to the state’s supposed effort to attract and retain young professionals and to develop a more millennial-friendly

Powers insisted that the group will continue its effort to push for commuter rail in New Hampshire.

“Our coalition will continue to be a voice for the majority of citizens and businesses who are concerned about New Hampshire’s workforce and demographic crisis and are demanding the state invest in a modern transportation infrastructure,” he said. “We will build off the momentum gained during this legislative session and continue to grow our coalition of bipartisan supporters.”

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