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 March 19, 2002 

CONCORD, N.H. - The State House executive council chamber was the location for a March 19 meeting of Gov. Shaheen's Integrated Transport and Railroad Council to discuss a variety of topics.

Nashua regional planner Andrew Singlelakis reported on progress in linking his city with the Lowell, MA MBTA terminus. That project could cost $60 million but passenger ridership is estimated at 900 per week day. About $25-30 million in Federal Transit Administration and other funds are now in hand through the efforts of NH Congressional delegation members.

Trainsets would lay over in Nashua at less cost than North Station, a dollar could be added to the fare to underwrite parking costs and an environmental impact study, including how such a line might lessen traffic congestion, is presently underway. This phase of the project is anticipated to be complete by July.

It is only logical that once the Lowell/Nashua link is reestablished that the line be extended north to Manchester which is slowly starting to show an interest.

Dave Fink, executive vice president of Guilford Rail Systems, a council member, noted, "This project is working because all stakeholders are communicating at the start."

The Conservation Law Foundation's NH rep. then stressed the need to repeal or at least rewrite NH's Constitutional Article 6A which requires that gas tax revenues go only for highways. Nancy Girard claimed, "...this provision is no longer's an impediment to DOT's meeting its obligations for balanced transportation in the state. NH needs a more comprehensive approach to transportation."

DOT chief Carol Murray noted that only 60% of the so-called NH Highway Trust Fund now goes into highway construction. Public safety was taking much of the remainder along with 12% sent to towns and cities. She felt the chances of repeal were slim as did others including NH Motor Transport Ass'n. president Bob Sculley.

Murray went on to predict a $28 million decrease in federal highway funding allocated to NH, a result of the $8.4 billion cut being proposed by the Bush Administration.

Susan Arnold, the governor's administrative assistant, explained that the state was taking a total highway funding hit of $33 when factoring in lagging state revenues. Singelakis advocated that the application of "highway funds" be broadened to include other projects that help highways such as congestion mitigation and air quality compliance.

Dave Fink noted that the Charlotte/Burlington, VT commuter train wasn't making it financially. He went on to update fellow members on efforts by his company to raise railroad right of way clearances to 22'6" to accommodate double stack freight for the economic benefit of New England shipping.

The Council meets next on May 6, 10 am in the same location.

 <Malcolm T Taylor []  March 21, 2002 12:01 PM>

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