HAVERHILL — The MBTA wants to extend the Haverhill-to-Boston commuter rail line closer to New Hampshire, possibly even setting up a stop in Plaistow, said state Sen. Steven Baddour.
He said the MBTA is negotiating to buy property north of downtown Haverhill for a new commuter stop and to also provide space for a layover station — a place where trains park and idle overnight.
The layover station has been located at Haverhill's Bradford commuter station since 1987. Neighbors of that station have complained for years that the idling trains wake them up in the early-morning hours and put fumes in the open windows of homes during the summer.
"The neighbors in Bradford have had to deal with the layover station near their homes for long enough," Baddour said.
The MBTA is looking at several locations in Haverhill and Plaistow for the layover station and new commuter stop, said Baddour, D-Methuen, who is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. He said the MBTA should know by the end of the year whether the new station is going to happen.
Baddour said he has secured $10 million to move the layover facility in the Senate version of the new transportation bond bill. The money can be used to buy land, move the layover facility and build a new station, he said.
While only the governor can release funds for items in the transportation bond bill, the authority also has its own money that it could use for the project, Baddour said.
Last year, the MBTA considered moving the layover station to the former Lucent Technologies site in North Andover, where a new commuter stop was also being considered. North Andover opposed the layover, however, and it did not go forward for that and other reasons, Baddour said.
Adding a stop in North Andover would have further extended the already long train ride to Boston, Baddour said. Adding a stop north of Haverhill would not affect the ride to Boston because downtown Haverhill is currently the last stop on the line.
Baddour said it is premature to identify the sites being considered for the new station because the MBTA is in active negotiations for the privately owned lands. The authority could also use eminent domain powers to seize the property determined to best suit the needs of the region and its ridership, he said. Each of the sites being eyed is in a rural area and not close to homes, he said.
Mayor James Fiorentini said he supports moving the Bradford layover station but wanted to know more details before commenting further. He said he would have to know the location of the new layover site and receive assurances that the authority is not considering discontinuing the Bradford commuter stop, which is located across the Merrimack River from the downtown commuter station. Both the downtown and Bradford stations are used by many commuters.
"I would fight that strongly," Fiorentini said of closing the Bradford station. "There's no place for people who use the Bradford station to park at the downtown station."
Discontinuing the Bradford stop is not being considered, Baddour said.
Before 1987, the MBTA parked its commuter trains overnight in an isolated layover station between Haverhill's Little River and an industrial property at the edge of Hale Street.
Then one day without notice, the transportation authority packed up and moved the layover station to Bradford, just up from the Bradford train station, city officials and Bradford neighbors have said.
Baddour said he has received fewer complaints about the layover facility since the authority implemented new rules to reduce noise and fumes from trains. However, he said, he has remained committed to finding a way to move the layover.