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February 12, 2013

Economic boon or waste of precious dollars?

Rail study vote draws mixed response

(Continued)

Congressional leaders also spoke in favor of the study, including U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Congresswoman Annie Kuster, D-N.H.

The so-called “Capital Corridor” project would help create jobs and boost economic development in the Nashua, Concord and Manchester areas, they said.

But the question is whether Southern New Hampshire communities such as Salem, Windham, Derry and Londonderry would benefit from such a project.

That’s why undertaking such a study is important, some local officials said. There’s no way of knowing the potential economic impact until the study is completed, they said.

But some are confident that restoring passenger rail along the Nashua-Concord corridor could have a positive impact here, including Windham community development director Laura Scott.

“There have been studies all across the country showing that when commuter rail is brought into an area, economic development (prospers),” she said.

Donna Morris, executive director of the Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce, agreed.

“If you improve your infrastructure and transportation, it’s going to carry over,” she said. “I believe there would be an over-spill to this area.”

But Scott and Morris both said completing the widening of Interstate 93 from Salem to Manchester is still the biggest priority for Southern New Hampshire.

“Our focus is still on I-93,” Morris said.

Plaistow Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald said he’s been following the Capitol Corridor proposal and thinks the study is worth undertaking.

He’s been advocating restoration of passenger rail in Plaistow, saying extension of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority commuter rail through his town would create jobs and boost economic development.

“Not to do that would be an abdication of our responsibility of officials to explore this,” he said. “Why wouldn’t we study this?”

But residents of both Plaistow and neighboring Atkinson have opposed the rail line and a proposed layover station, saying they would disrupt their communities.

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