HAVERHILL — The man who works to support businesses in the city and Southern New Hampshire said he is pushing for a commuter rail stop in Plaistow, N.H.
James Jajuga, president of the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce and a former Massachusetts senator, met this week with selectmen in Plaistow, which is part of his organization. He said he sees commuter rail service as an unmet need in Plaistow.
"Everyone has to be in agreement," Jajuga said. "But you might not see an opportunity like this again. Quite frankly, I think the stars are aligned."
The MBTA is considering extending the Boston-to-Haverhill commuter line into Plaistow. Massachusetts Sen. Steven Baddour, D-Methuen, said the MBTA is considering moving its so-called layover station farther north from its location in Haverhill's Bradford section. The layover station is a place where trains idle during the early morning hours, and would likely include a commuter stop if it is relocated.
The biggest obstacle in bringing a commuter station to Plaistow could be money, but the selectmen were surprised this week to learn the town has almost $1 million for such a project.
Tim Moore, chairman of the Planning Board and the town's representative to the Rockingham Planning Commission, said $960,000 in grant money is available from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program.
The Plaistow Area Transit Advisory Committee, which existed in the 1990s, received the grant to build a train station and finance rail service for three years, but the money was never used because there wasn't a long-term plan in place, Moore said.
While the selectmen are anxious to get rail service, they said they are going to do their homework. To start, they want copies of all studies done on Bradford's layover station. If Bradford doesn't want it anymore because of noise and pollution, Plaistow may not want it either, Selectman Larry Gil said.
Jajuga said he would have Baddour's office send those reports to Plaistow. He's also going to host a meeting between Plaistow and Haverhill officials, the MBTA and Baddour to begin discussing the issues at hand. A date has not been set for that meeting.
Selectmen also decided to write to the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority, of which Moore is a member. The authority was established mainly to extend rail service to the New Hampshire communities of Nashua and Manchester, but includes all towns with stations or that want stations. The authority does not have a budget, but is working on things like a statewide decrease of train platform liability insurance for towns, Moore said.