Commuter Rail to New Hampshire?

Brattle Loop

Active Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2020
Messages
376
Reaction score
536
NHDOT posted the Public meeting slides here. What struck me about all of their station designs (attached here), is that both Nashua and Manchester require track level crossings to access their island platforms, and Bedford requires it for it's very small outbound side platform. It must be ADA compliant otherwise they wouldn't be proposing it, but it's something that would seemingly only work with low level platforms, which would be a shame for new builds.
View attachment 19042
My understanding, and I'm mostly paraphrasing F-Line from about a half-dozen different posts on the subject over time, is that mini-high level platforms are all that is needed to meet ADA requirements, and that it's a Massachusetts state rule that requires new and substantially modified stations to have full-high platforms constructed.

It's regrettable from and operational/efficiency standpoint that they're not going with full high-level platforms, though hopefully it won't have a significant operational impact (we're not talking the kind of frequencies the inner Lowell would get in a Regional Rail world, so it's less likely to be a deal-breaker). The cynic in me wonders if full-highs would have been a bridge too far for "Live Free or Cheap" New Hampshire, and if so at least their absence would mean one fewer reason for their unreliable legislature to try and kill the effort.
 

The EGE

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 29, 2013
Messages
1,102
Reaction score
1,129
I'm not actually sure those are low-level platforms - there look to be ramps on the west side of the Bedford platform.
 

Brattle Loop

Active Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2020
Messages
376
Reaction score
536
They look a little curvy to be full highs
But are the curves any sharper than Landsdowne, where we know we can build T-spec high level platforms? (Trying to fathom out an answer to that question via Google Maps, not having much success.)
 

ant8904

Active Member
Joined
Sep 22, 2008
Messages
618
Reaction score
35
I hope you all don't mind, but can anyone give any context? Goddamn, there's a 7 year gap between the last wave of posts and the latest ones now. And even the 2014 batch was a small wave - most of the chatter from 2011 and 2012.

- Is the newest development a new start or a long "brew" from the 2014 study?
- Is this new news because of the new infrastructure bill?
- Did nothing happened between 2014 until just now?

I have to say, whenever I get reminded of how much time so many of these projects just to even start, I start thinking how much of my life has already passed. I was a literal high schooler when I just joined the forum. And the implications for so many projects we keep hoping too. If projects like this are looking so far away still - it does not bode well for so many other projects. Granted, the ones in my mind are much different projects with different economic and engineering barriers. But I feel like the political barriers are still the same even though this involves NH. At these speeds, how many New England area transit projects would we actually see even start within our lifetimes?
 

themissinglink

Active Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2018
Messages
115
Reaction score
231
I hope you all don't mind, but can anyone give any context? Goddamn, there's a 7 year gap between the last wave of posts and the latest ones now. And even the 2014 batch was a small wave - most of the chatter from 2011 and 2012.
There's been extremely inconsistent updates because the project has been a hot-button political issue in New Hampshire for a long time. Although it seems that opinions regarding the project has been more favorable as of recently, it's still not clear whether it will actually happen this time around or not.

For me personally, I'll be skeptical of the extension happening until construction begins.
 

lexicon506

Active Member
Joined
May 25, 2006
Messages
525
Reaction score
129
It's absolutely bizarre that better connecting your state's middling cities to one of the most dynamic global economic centers is considered at all controversial or "hot-button." I'm not even talking as a transit-enthusiast, this is just meat and potatoes business attraction and retention.
 

Brattle Loop

Active Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2020
Messages
376
Reaction score
536
I hope you all don't mind, but can anyone give any context? Goddamn, there's a 7 year gap between the last wave of posts and the latest ones now. And even the 2014 batch was a small wave - most of the chatter from 2011 and 2012.

- Is the newest development a new start or a long "brew" from the 2014 study?
- Is this new news because of the new infrastructure bill?
- Did nothing happened between 2014 until just now?
The current round of discussion that reactivated this thread came about as a result of NHDOT holding a public hearing (virtually) on the project and its current status and plans. Based on the slides from their presentation (linked on the last page, and where the station-site renderings came from) they've clearly made some progress. I think it's implied if not outright been stated by them that the recent federal largesse (including the infrastructure bill) was at least one of the motivations for their renewed interest. As for the apparent radio silence since 2014, I imagine there's probably been some status updates if not actual significant progress over the years, but nothing that anyone ever deemed worthy of resurrecting this thread for.

I have to say, whenever I get reminded of how much time so many of these projects just to even start, I start thinking how much of my life has already passed. I was a literal high schooler when I just joined the forum. And the implications for so many projects we keep hoping too. If projects like this are looking so far away still - it does not bode well for so many other projects. Granted, the ones in my mind are much different projects with different economic and engineering barriers. But I feel like the political barriers are still the same even though this involves NH. At these speeds, how many New England area transit projects would we actually see even start within our lifetimes?
The degree to which transit projects can get bogged down around here, by any number of factors, is quite depressing, though I would argue that this one in particular doesn't merit as much despair as some others. (The utter lack of progress on Red-Blue, among the other projects blatantly undermined by Baker & Company, is to me stronger cause for disappointment.) The problem is that New Hampshire is not structured to function well when it comes to transit planning. In addition to a massive state house of representatives and an unusually-powerful governor's council, they've also got a governor who's up for reelection every two years (as are the state representatives). It tends to lead to them changing tack fairly quickly whenever the party in power changes, and the whole system is incentivized towards short-termism. Add that to the state's deserved reputation for not loving taxation that would pay for transit projects (and somewhat-unusual-for-New England small-government-ism) and you've got a recipe for a state whose political and governance structure doesn't tend to incentivize transit. They know it can benefit them (if not uniformly across the state), which is why it makes a lot of sense that they've got momentum again when they see a tidal wave of federal money that can largely eliminate any political drawbacks to the plan, 'cause it won't really be the state taxpayers being asked to directly foot the bill.

It's absolutely bizarre that better connecting your state's middling cities to one of the most dynamic global economic centers is considered at all controversial or "hot-button." I'm not even talking as a transit-enthusiast, this is just meat and potatoes business attraction and retention.
In a state with a government and political culture like NH's, it's going to be hot-button. Most of it's nowhere near urban enough to go without cars (like most of the US) so driving is the assumed default with all the benefits to road interests that come with it. Meaning, transit is inevitably classed as benefitting "some people" rather than everybody (which is also true in MA, just the "some people" who would benefit directly is larger), even if the economic effects (which are pretty intangible to the average citizen) are more widespread. What you wind up with is that an anti-tax, frequently anti-spend state's citizenry (and their representatives) are being asked to pay 'their' money for something a lot of them aren't likely to use (much, if at all) and that doesn't directly, immediately, or particularly tangibly benefit them. Add that ask into a governing structure with a lot of elected officials (the state House of Reps is disproportionately huge), a lot of veto points, and particularly where everybody including the governor is pretty much constantly running for re-election, and you've got a recipe for an issue that a lot of people won't want to touch because of the political issue, even though rather more of them understand it's valuable on its merits. (Also why the state can tend to get cooperative in a hurry whenever someone else foots the bill. It's less reflexive ideological opposition and more cheapskatery.)
 

themissinglink

Active Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2018
Messages
115
Reaction score
231
As for the apparent radio silence since 2014, I imagine there's probably been some status updates if not actual significant progress over the years, but nothing that anyone ever deemed worthy of resurrecting this thread for.
I'm pretty sure there have been sparse updates or discussions about the extension in other threads, but I went digging to see if there was a thread for this project and (obviously) there was, it just hasn't had any activity in years.

Perhaps I should have posted in another thread, but I feel like Commuter Rail to NH is important enough of a project to have its own thread.
 

Brattle Loop

Active Member
Joined
Apr 28, 2020
Messages
376
Reaction score
536
I'm pretty sure there have been sparse updates or discussions about the extension in other threads, but I went digging to see if there was a thread for this project and (obviously) there was, it just hasn't had any activity in years.

Perhaps I should have posted in another thread, but I feel like Commuter Rail to NH is important enough of a project to have its own thread.
Oh, it definitely deserves its own thread. My comment about discussion in other threads was in direct response to a post inquiring as to why the thread had been reactivated after being dormant since 2014. (I also didn't have the time or energy to go digging for any of the updates over the years, given that half of them were probably F-Line's beleaguered, if well-deserved, grumbling at the NH state government having the attention span of a goldfish.)

This is absolutely the right thread for this discussion, and I for one had completely missed the fact that NHDOT had moved this project back on the front burner until your post Thursday, so I for one very much appreciate your resurrecting this thread.
 

tysmith95

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 8, 2016
Messages
2,709
Reaction score
207
The infrastructure bill is why this project is being discussed about again. It includes 125 million towards transit in NH.

Anyway, for the mass portion, are there any plans for infill stations? Maybe a 2nd Lowell and Chelmsford station?
 
Last edited:

bigeman312

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 19, 2012
Messages
1,718
Reaction score
401
The infrastructure bill is why this project is being discussed about again. It includes 125 million towards transit in NH.

Anyway, for the mass portion, are there any plans for infill stations? Maybe a 2nd Lowell and Chelmsford station?
The biggest right now is the work to reopen Winchester Center Station. It was closed in January, and then subsequently demolished. A $47.6 million construction contract was approved in October.

Mishawum has been closed since December, 2020. The question now is if/when Mishawum will reopen. Currently, there is no plan in place to restore service to this location.

Other than those two stations, I'd imagine candidates likely include Somerville (potential transfer to/from a Green Line Extension station), Chelmsford, and Tyngsborough.
 

themissinglink

Active Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2018
Messages
115
Reaction score
231
Anyway, for the mass portion, are there any plans for infill stations? Maybe a 2nd Lowell and Chelmsford station?
A station in North Chelmsford and another one at UMass Lowell would be ideal sites for stations in MA, but as of right now they are not part of the current project. Possibly they will be constructed as infill stations later on, but for now there's no stations planned between Lowell and South Nashua.

I'd also like to see a station in Tyngsborough someday, but I'd consider that to be less likely and urgent than stations at UMass and North Chelmsford.
 

W-4

New member
Joined
Feb 17, 2020
Messages
25
Reaction score
28
Maybe it would be hard to get Simon on board, but I'm disappointed that nobody seems to be considering putting the Nashua stop at the Pheasant Lane Mall. It already has massive parking capacity for park-and-riders, plus it's an actual walkable location for those who aren't driving. Spit Brook is a strip mall No Man's Land. Damn near 100% of trips to and from that station will be in a car.

I know we're talking about a smaller mall with lower frequencies, but I can't help but think of the Minneapolis light rail stop at the Mall of America. It seems to be fairly well-used.


Edit: Never mind. I was looking at old info from earlier in the thread.
 
Last edited:

tysmith95

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 8, 2016
Messages
2,709
Reaction score
207
Maybe it would be hard to get Simon on board, but I'm disappointed that nobody seems to be considering putting the Nashua stop at the Pheasant Lane Mall. It already has massive parking capacity for park-and-riders, plus it's an actual walkable location for those who aren't driving. Spit Brook is a strip mall No Man's Land. Damn near 100% of trips to and from that station will be in a car.

I know we're talking about a smaller mall with lower frequencies, but I can't help but think of the Minneapolis light rail stop at the Mall of America. It seems to be fairly well-used.
The perfeered location for south Nashua is at the pheasant lane mall in the NHDOT slide deck.

I don't think it would be hard to get Simon on board. It makes their land more valueable for TOD, and the station would be right next to what's currently a vacant sears building.
 
Last edited:

themissinglink

Active Member
Joined
Jan 13, 2018
Messages
115
Reaction score
231
Maybe it would be hard to get Simon on board, but I'm disappointed that nobody seems to be considering putting the Nashua stop at the Pheasant Lane Mall. It already has massive parking capacity for park-and-riders, plus it's an actual walkable location for those who aren't driving. Spit Brook is a strip mall No Man's Land. Damn near 100% of trips to and from that station will be in a car.

I know we're talking about a smaller mall with lower frequencies, but I can't help but think of the Minneapolis light rail stop at the Mall of America. It seems to be fairly well-used.
Pheasant Lane Mall is one of two potential sites for the South Nashua station, thankfully (as tysmith95 said) it's the preferred location. I hope it prevails as the station location, Pheasant Lane Mall makes a lot more sense than Spit Brook Road for the South Nashua stop.

slide 23.PNG
pheasant lane mall.PNG
 
Last edited:

Top