Commuter rail: Bedford officials intrigued by proposal to connect the town to Worcester, Mass.

By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
September 28. 2017 9:19PM


BEDFORD — With plenty of attention focused on Nashua surrounding a proposed privately-funded passenger rail service, Bedford officials say they are excited about the potential opportunities this new venture could bring to their town.

Boston Surface Railroad Company (BSRC) of Rhode Island is in the early stages of a plan to bring commuter rail from Bedford to Worcester, Mass., with potential stops in Nashua and Lowell, Mass.

“We are excited that they are looking at Bedford. We think it is an interesting opportunity for us,” said Town Manager Rick Sawyer. “In general, I think commuter rail would be a benefit to Bedford.”

The initial proposal includes a train stop across the Merrimack River from the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport on undisclosed property in Bedford, possibly near Raymond Wieczorek Drive, the access highway connecting the airport to the F.E. Everett Turnpike and South River Road (Route 3).

“A key piece of this would be to make sure the trains could align with the flight times in Manchester. That is one of the things that has to be a priority,” said Sawyer.

Sawyer acknowledged that he was unaware of the railroad company’s proposal until he read about it in the Union Leader earlier this week.

He said he has contacted BSRC to set up a meeting. “We are all just eager to learn more,” said Sawyer.

State Rep. Terry Wolf, R-Bedford, said Thursday that she was pleasantly surprised to read about the proposal in the newspaper. With public rail being debated for so many years in southern New Hampshire, Wolf said she has had reservations about how it would be funded and whether it could be sustainable.

“I love the idea of a private solution. I am concerned about the long-term viability of rail, but I am certainly willing to look more,” said Wolf.

Jay Minkarah, who will take over as the new executive director of the Nashua Regional Planning Commission next month, said he is also interested in learning more about the proposal.

“I think this is a very intriguing possibility. The opportunity of pursuing privately funded rail is absolutely something that we need to look into further,” Minkarah said this week.

“From what I understand, we have seen similar projects undertaken successfully elsewhere,” said Minkarah. “Of course it is early, and of course there is a whole lot more that needs to get done.”

Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess said this week that the proposal would require Nashua to build its own train station, possibly on Crown Street, as either a platform or a complete building.

“There is really minimal cost and a lot to be gained by the plan … this would be a great benefit for Nashua people,” said Donchess.

Nashua aldermen are currently considering a proposal to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the railroad company and the other communities to promote and facilitate the plan.

Venture capital, private funds and a government loan program would be utilized, according to Vincent Bono, president of BSRC, who said earlier that the municipalities involved will not have to provide any money, but will need to commit to a private-public partnership with the railroad company.

khoughton@newstote.com


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