Saturday, December 24, 2011

Commuter Rail to New Hampshire

As most of you know the MBTA's Commuter Rail system only crosses state lines (into Rhode Island) on the south side of the system. It has been proposed for many years however, to extend some of the north side lines into the state of New Hampshire.

Before the days of MBTA.com
these pamphlets could be found for each line!
To think NH-Zone 13 was $6 1-way!
First, let me give a brief history of the MBTA trying to bring passenger rail back into the state of New Hampshire. During the 1980's the Boston and Maine Railroad (B&M) was the contractor for the MBTA Commuter Rail system (just like the MBCR today). On January 28, 1980, the B&M started an experimental service  that would run from Boston's North Station running along the Lowell line and eventually merging onto the New Hampshire main line terminating in Concord NH. It was dubbed the "Minute Man Service". This service was very popular among tourists, but it was not as popular as the B&M had first hoped it would be, resulting in federal funding being taken away and causing its demise on March 1, 1981, only a year after it first started operating.

B&M "Minute Man Service" near North Chelmsford, MA
After the Minute Man Service's early demise, it would take until 2008 for legislation to come about that might actually allow MBTA Commuter Rail to travel into NH. In July of '08 the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority proposed a plan to extend MBTA Commuter Rail from the current Lowell terminus to Downtown Manchester, NH. The project would create nine new stops: North Chemlsford, Tyngsboro, Nashua, NH (Pheasant Lane Mall), Merrimack, NH, Manchester Regional Airport, and Downtown Manchester, NH. The plan also called for 12 to 15 round trips per day during weekdays and eight to ten round trips per day on weekends. The plan even received a total of $41 Million in Federal Grants to help fund the planning of the project. In early 2011 however, a bill was introduced into the New Hampshire legislature that would end the project's planning and give up its federal funding. Currently the project is still in limbo and, unfortunately, no one really knows what will come next.


Although the fate of this project is uncertain, another project is currently making headlines. The MBTA, NHDOT, Rockingham Planning Commision, and the Town of Plaistow New Hampshire are all working together to try and extend the MBTA's Haverhill Line from its current terminus in Downtown Haverhill to Plaistow, NH and relocate the current layover facility in Bradford to a new location on the border of Atkinson, NH. The project is currently set to cost around $25.5 Million. The projects largest obstacle however, is opposition from residents who do not want a layover facility in their area. 


The layover station has been located at Haverhill's Bradford commuter station since 1987. It is extremely small and has no room for expansion. Neighbors of the facility have complained for years that the idling trains wake them up in the early morning hours and send fumes through the open windows of homes during the summer. The new layover facility, which would be located in Atkinson, could accommodate six train sets, allowing for anticipated service expansion on the line. Like many of the MBTA's new layover facilities, when the trains are stored, they will be connected to the yard's power to allow for the train systems to run without use of power from the locomotive. The state-of-the-art energy controls and electrical systems will allow the MBTA to prohibit idling when an engine is not in active service. The facility would be owned by the NHDOT, and would be leased to the MBTA for operation.


The people of Atkinson really dislike the idea of this facility. This past Monday, December 19, 2011, The Plaistow Area Transit Advisory Committee met for the first time in more than 10 years to discuss the project. The meeting, which took place at the Atikinson Community Center, was attended by many Atkinson residents and local state officials. The meeting eventually turned into a shouting match between residents as committee member Tim Moore tried to explain the facts of the project. According to The Eagle Tribune, the meeting got out of hand numerous times, with people shouting and interrupting each other. Overall, Atkinson residents are truly showing that they do not want a layover facility in their area. 


Right now the project is still in the planning process, but they would like to have the extension open for revenue service by 2013. Hopefully Atkinson residents come onboard with the project and it can move forward as soon as possible! The next Plaistow Area Transit Advisory Committee (PATAC) will be held on February 9th. 

6 comments:

  1. I remember the service had more to do with presidential politics than b&m desire for service.. Train began running around the time of nh primary and ended shortly after Reagan was elected. I even recall Jimmy Carter traveling there on the Peanut Express

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    1. i would sreiously hope that N.H. would do all that it could to get commuter rail back in my homestate and concord would definately benefit also, especiall all points north!!!

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    2. As i said earlier about rail into n.h.. I would also like to know of any new info on what's being done now, my e-mail is cameljoearc@gmail.com Please if anyone knows moe let's talk.

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  2. Anonymous, I hope that you would like that layover station right on the border of your own property as the majority of Plaistow residents reflected that they have no interest in this, yet our town selectmen and manager did not listen to this vote. I hope the good old boys in town show up and vote out these selectment next time around as they are not listening to our citizens. I also hope that our town changes the rules and requires a town manager to live in our town, not far away in Mass where things are busy and it is not a quieter town who wants to stay quiet.
    Shame on them for not paying attention to what we the people want. Shame on the powers that be in NH who are wasting money on a survey to implement something that the majority of us do not want.

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    1. Couldn't the problems with the proposed Plaistow layover facility be solved by moving it a few miles further northeast along the line, so that it falls in a sparsely-populated area of Plaistow rather than a dense residential area?

      Also, although the Plaistow extension and layover facility are currently somewhat unpopular with residents, a recent study showed, interestingly enough, that a strong majority of New Hampshirites supported a resumption of Boston-Concord service. Apparently, the only obstacle is the cost, and if New Hampshirites truly want commuter rail to Boston, it shouldn't be hard to vote in a government willing to give the project the money it needs...

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  3. Bring trash from northern trash MA towns into NH?! Good luck with that ruin

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