Bus runs to Boston to start at Exit 8

CONCORD – The origin for daily bus service from Nashua to Boston apparently will be moving north to Exit 8 off the F.E. Everett Turnpike.

State transportation officials confirmed that plans are to have all buses stop and start in Nashua from Exit 8. Currently, the state Welcome Center off Exit 6 is another stop, and it serves as the terminal hub for the purchase of bus tickets.

The Welcome Center will be dropped because it offers less parking than Exit 8, which is a park-and-ride lot with several hundred spaces.

“The facility in the Welcome Center is pretty well full. We are looking at alternatives, and the location at Exit 8 is larger and can handle many more people,” said Christopher Morgan, rail and transit administrator for the Department of Transportation.

The bus vendor, Boston Express, is also exploring, with the help of state officials, a second new bus stop just over the border, right off Route 3 in Tyngsborough, Mass., said Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau, who supports this change.

“I see this as a win from Nashua’s perspective,” Lozeau said. “People are flocking to the buses, and we are connecting the routes with our city bus service so people will be able take a local bus to catch the bus to Boston.”

State Rep. David Campbell, D-Nashua, predicted the change could happen within a year.

Campbell said it dovetails with state Safety Commissioner John Barthelmes taking a serious look at the Welcome Center as the site for a motor vehicle substation where area motorists can get their cars registered and take driving tests.

The state currently rents space in Merrimack for a substation that serves residents from Nashua and surrounding towns.

Executive Councilor Debora Pignatelli, D-Nashua, has lobbied Barthelmes to move the substation to the Welcome Center site.

“If the Welcome Center becomes a substation, then you are left with even fewer spaces for those taking commuter buses,” said Campbell, vice chairman of the House Public Works and Highways Committee. “The Exit 8 lot makes the most sense.”

Meanwhile, bus service has exceeded expectations since it started in February 2007. The state hoped to have 10,000 riders a month and that number is already up to 12,000, said Paul Worsowicz, a lobbyist for the vendor.

A pair of House panels met Wednesday to discuss commuter bus expansion for residents along the Interstate 93 corridor.

Boston Express won a 10-year contract with the state buying buses and leasing them to the vendor. The state will subsidize this service with state highway dollars up to a maximum of $4.3 million over the first three years, Transportation Commissioner George Campbell said.

Starting in November, the state will have daily commuter bus stops at park-and-ride lots off Exit 2 in Windham, Exit 5 in Londonderry and expand the number of buses that already stop at a lot off Exit 4 in Derry.

This network will carry close to a half-million bus riders a year, Commissioner Campbell added.

The new schedule cuts the number of stops in downtown Manchester. State officials and the vendor added some back at the behest of Manchester Mayor Frank Giunta and state legislators from the city.

The state also bought with federal money buses for the Nashua-to-Boston service and has the same lease agreement with Boston Express, Morgan said.

Federal operating aid for the Nashua bus line amounted to $1 million a year. In the first year of service, the state’s share of the cost was $82,000, and for Boston Express, it was $180,000.