EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

March 9, 2008

Plaistow officials hopeful MBTA considers rail extension

PLAISTOW — Selectman Larry Gil approached Haverhill, Mass., officials for years to discuss extending the commuter rail into Plaistow, but always failed.

"It was like I was speaking a foreign language," he said. "They'd point out all the obstacles, that the state Legislature would have to approve it."

So Gil was shocked when he learned last week that the Massachusetts Senate Transportation Committee had taken up the issue themselves, he said.

Sen. Steven Baddour, D-Methuen, chairman of the committee, has said neighbors of the Bradford layover station — where trains park and idle overnight — have had enough of the noise. Bradford is a section of Haverhill.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is looking at property north of downtown Haverhill for a new commuter stop and layover station. Some of that property is in Plaistow, according to Baddour.

Plaistow officials don't know where it would go or how it would be funded, but they are eager to begin researching the possibility of commuter rail extending to their town. If the rail line were extended to Plaistow, the layover station also would be sited there, Baddour said.

Gil approached the Planning Board Wednesday to talk about logistics. He said he plans to bring it up at the selectmen's meeting tomorrow at 6:30 p.m.

The positives would have to outweigh the negatives — noise, fumes and potential petroleum spills, Gil said. But commuter rail is something Plaistow officials have wanted for at least five years.

The town previously discussed trying to bring Amtrak's Downeaster through Plaistow, but ultimately decided the town couldn't afford it.

"But this is coming a different way now," Gil said.

In his research, Gil said, he found that the MBTA has a layover station in Rhode Island, which suggests crossing the border into New Hampshire might not be a big issue. The state needs to start looking at transportation alternatives, given the problems with the proposed widening of Interstate 93, he said.

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