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February 12, 2013

Economic boon or waste of precious dollars?

Rail study vote draws mixed response


Fitzgerald said rail has been proven to be a safer form of transportation than motor vehicles and leads to less pollution.

As proposed, an estimated 737 commuters would use the service daily, diverting 670 vehicles from Route 125 in Plaistow and Haverhill.

Fitzgerald pointed to Amtrak’s Downeaster passenger train, which travels daily from Boston to Freeport, Maine, making several stops along the way.

Those stops include Dover, Durham and Exeter, but not Plaistow, even though the train passes through town each day, Fitzgerald said.

Plaistow residents like to wave at the train, he said, “But they can’t get on it.”

Boynton said the Downeaster is an example of commuter rail that has proven to be viable.

“That has been successful,” he said. “They seem to get a lot of activity. It’s very popular with UNH students.”

Another supporter of commuter rail is Debora Pignatelli, D-Nashua, one of the four executive councilors to vote in favor of the study.

Pignatelli, who recently returned to the council after a hiatus, said the rail study was one of her key platforms while seeking election this fall.

Last year, the council voted, 3-2, against pursuing a similar study, she said.

Like Fitzgerald, she believes commuter rail can provide an effective and efficient mode of transportation while reducing the congestion and pollution caused by motor vehicles.

She also supports the expansion of freight lines, taking more big trucks off New Hampshire roads.

All options need to be considered, she said, before automatically concluding the project is not worth pursuing.

“Don’t we have to study it before we say no?” she said. “Don’t we have to study if before we say yes?”

Commuter rail has been successful in other parts of the country, including Texas, she said.

“When we looked at this in other areas, there has been a huge economic explosion,” she said.

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