No State Funds for Proposed Commuter Rail Extension, say LFDA Members - 618 responses

Nov 24, 2014

While the merits of expanding rail service in New Hampshire range from job creation to relieving pressure on congested highways, many residents remain skeptical of the use of state funds for rail projects. A November 2014 study by the New Hampshire Rail and Transit Authority (NHRTA) examined the feasibility of extending commuter rail services from Massachusetts to Nashua, Manchester or Concord, and estimated that state contributions would range from $4 to $15 million each year for costs not covered by federal funding, MBTA funds or user fees. For a majority of respondents to a Live Free or Die Alliance (LFDA) question about the issue posed to Facebook members, the potential benefits of public rail service did not outweigh this ongoing cost to taxpayers.

While a solid 38% of respondents directly answering the question "Should NH state government fund a commuter rail?" expressed approval, the majority, at 62%, disagreed. Thirty percent of those commenting opted to use the question to address other related issues. In total, the LFDA received 618 citizen responses, including specific comments from 245 individuals supported by 317 concurrences.

A common refrain was clear among those opposed to state funding for a potential rail project: "If it's viable, a private company would take the risk and reap the profits." Though many respondents stated they appreciated the potential benefits of a commuter rail extension, they simply did not believe they merited a regular drain on already stretched state finances, or an increase in fees or taxes. "If the economy was better and our government didn't over spend I would see this as a good thing. But not with how things are going today," said one commenter.

Supporters argued that the rail line should be seen as an extension of state infrastructure, and therefore as deserving of public funding as roads or bridges. "We need to improve our infrastructure, create alternatives to automobiles and take some of the pressure off our road systems," one respondent pointed out. Long-term benefits to the environment and relieving pressure on congested roads were two oft-cited reasons for supporting the proposal.

Of those opting to use the question as a basis for debate on broader issues, many discussed whether New Hampshire would be better served by rail expansion to other destinations, such as Portsmouth or the North Country, or a line connecting the eastern and western parts of the state.

Click here to see the full Facebook discussion of this question.

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