CSX CEO keeps hope for passenger rail in New Hampshire alive
Tells hearing company will ‘consider the introduction of passenger service’ after Pan Am acquisition
Jim Foote, president and CEO of CSX Transportation, assured the federal Surface Transportation Board on Thursday that his company’s proposed acquisition of Pan Am Railways would include the prospect of extending passenger rail service to New Hampshire.
“There is no issue in New Hampshire,” Foote said twice. “We are willing to consider the introduction of passenger service.” He added that CSX is “committed to rebuilding the rail network of Pan Am.” The network includes the New Hampshire Main Line, 40 miles of track running between Nashua and Concord, the route of the Capitol Corridor Project where preliminary engineering and design work for providing commuter rail service is currently underway.
Foote told the STB that CSX has assured U.S. Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas of New Hampshire, both champions of commuter rail service between New Hampshire and Boston, that CSX is open to working with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to pursue the project.
Foote spoke in response to questioning from STB board member Robert Primus, who sought assurances that the merger would accommodate the expansion passenger rail service as well as the growth of freight traffic in New England, particularly in the metropolitan Boston area.
At the STB hearing, Patrick Herlihy, Director of the of Aeronautics, Rail and Transit at the NH Department of Transportation, reaffirmed the state’s support of the merger. Last June, Gov. Chris Sununu submitted a letter to the STB affirming that the acquisition would benefit the state. He wrote that the transaction “will bring financial resources to the table for much needed infrastructure improvements throughout Pan Am’s rail network operating in New Hampshire and honor all agreements with shippers, licensees and other entities that may also operate on the line in the future.”
Some 20 New Hampshire stakeholders, including state and local officials, state legislators, shippers and three railroads — the Milford-Bennington Railroad, New Hampshire Central Railroad and New Hampshire Northcoast Railroad — have also expressed support for the deal.
On the eve of the STB hearing, CXS cleared a major hurdle by reaching an agreement with Amtrak, which had opposed the deal. Under the agreement, CSX will cooperate with Amtrak to expand passenger service between Albany and Boston and increase and improve the Downeaster service between Boston and Maine. CSX also agreed to host the Berkshire Flyer, a seasonal service between Albany, N.Y., and Pittsfield, Mass., grant Amtrak trains priority over freight traffic and ensure freight traffic does not interfere with Amtrak service between Albany and Worcester, Mass.
Massachusetts officials are still seeking assurances that existing commuter services will not be disrupted and new services will be added. And Canadian Pacific has questioned whether the main line from Mechanicsville, N.Y. and Ayer, Mass., will remain viable when intermodal and automotive traffic is diverted around the Hoosac Tunnel on CSX’s main line from Albany to Boston.