EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

May 23, 2014

Many residents hope to derail track extension

Rail extension proposal draws criticism

PLAISTOW — Most of the residents at a commuter rail information meeting last night hope the project is derailed before it starts.

About 60 Atkinson and Plaistow residents attended the meeting at Town Hall last night.

Public comments fell on both sides of the track, but a majority were against the plan.

The project aims to locate a commuter rail or layover station, or a combination of the two, somewhere in or near Plaistow by extending the existing line that ends in Haverhill.

The session opened with an overview of the project and a presentation of 11 total site options. The options included some that town officials have asked engineers to sideline, at least for the time being.

“We’re in the very beginning of the exploratory process,” said John Weston of HDR Engineering, a Boston-based firm. “We looked at and identified every potential site in this study area that a layover facility or station could fit.”

The goal was to “shoehorn” sites in so every option was on the table, including some that would impact area residents, businesses or wetlands, Weston said.

Public comments focused on a number of areas — ridership, problems with similar projects connected to the commuter rail line and effects on residential areas.

Earlier details from HDR Engineering project manager Ron O’Blenis put ridership at about 225 riders. That seemed to be a sticking point for some, including Plaistow resident John Halloran.

He compared the project to another station built six years ago, which he said has just 35 percent of the ridership originally forecast.

“Any numbers you come up with, take them right out of the air,” he said. “You need some way to get exact numbers, accurate numbers.”

Plaistow resident Steven Halloran also opposed the project and wondered why Plaistow was being targeted.

“Why are we spending all this money to move this station from Bradford five miles up the road to here?” She asked. “Why wouldn’t you move the line farther up the road?”

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