SALEM — A Salem transit company has won a $2.4 million contract from the state to provide van service from Manchester to Portsmouth over the next three years.
The deal will get Seacoast residents to Manchester-Boston Regional Airport as soon as next year, but also holds the promise of a commuter link among University of New Hampshire campuses and Amtrak’s Downeaster rail service, officials said.
Prices will be set later, but are expected to cost about $20 for a round-trip ticket from Portsmouth to the Manchester transit center or $38 to the airport, Flight Line president Jamie Dowd said yesterday.
The schedule likely will include 19 trips daily, bracketing the first and last flights out of the airport.
Passengers will travel aboard handicapped-accessible Mercedes vans that carry 10 to 11 passengers, depending on configuration.
The company plans to purchase five or six vans at a cost of $85,000 each, a total expense of about $500,000.
The contract with the state is federally funded and will help finance operating and marketing costs, said Patrick Herlihy, state director of aeronautics, rail and transit.
The contract runs through June 30, 2016.
“This is a public-private partnership,” Dowd said.
Herlihy said studies by the Southern New Hampshire and Rockingham County regional planning commissions recommended the service. The goal is for the service to become self-sufficient, he said.
“Ultimately, this will get people from the Seacoast to the airport,” Herlihy said.
But others are interested, too.
“We are very pleased to hear that east-west transit service on Route 101 between Portsmouth and Manchester has moved one step closer to startup,” said Stephen Pesci, UNH special projects director.
UNH has a long-term goal of working with transit companies and the state Department of Transportation to connect the campuses in Manchester, Durham and the law school in Concord with the Seacoast and central corridor of the state, he said.