CONCORD, N.H. (AP) New Hampshire is getting more than $2 million in federal stimulus funds to study a $300 million high-speed rail corridor project from Boston to Nashua and on to Concord, U.S. Rep. Paul Hodes announced Oct. 25.
Hodes said the rail project is important to New Hampshire’s economy.
“This is the completion of the critical first step in the build-out,” he said. “I think it’s highly unlikely we would not want to move forward.”
Hodes — a Democrat who is running for U.S. Senate — said the funding source points out the difference between him and his opponent in the Nov. 2 election. Republican Senate candidate Kelly Ayotte opposes stimulus funds.
Ayotte spokesman Jeff Grappone said the United States doesn’t need a “bloated, wasteful stimulus package to examine the feasibility of commuter rail.”
Grappone said Ayotte believes in strengthening the state’s infrastructure but wants to ensure the rail project “doesn’t have to be propped up by taxpayers for decades to come.”
Mike Pillsbury, New Hampshire’s deputy transportation commissioner, said the study will provide answers to necessary questions before moving ahead with the engineering and construction phases of the project.
“It really answers the questions: Is this feasible? Is there enough capacity there? Are there enough riders?” he said.
The project — called the capital corridor — calls for train stations in Concord, Manchester and Nashua, as well as at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in Manchester.
Pillsbury estimated the study will take 18 months once a consultant is hired. Hiring an engineering firm to conduct the study could take several months, he said. Pillsbury said the study not only should show the benefits of having the high-speed rail connections, it also should show what needs to be done to provide the services.
He was optimistic the study would be the first step to winning future funding to complete the project.
The rail line being studied currently is a freight line.