The following letter was sent to the DOT, EC4, and Governor Sununu by postal mail as testimony for the upcoming GACIT hearings on NH’s 10-year transportation plan.

Documents pertaining to the hearings are in the previous article and in the letter below. Read them first to get an idea of what is being proposed.

William E. Watson, P.E.
Bureau of Planning and Community Assistance
New Hampshire Department of Transportation
John O. Morton Building, 7 Hazen Drive
P.O. Box 483
Concord, NH 03302-0483

Executive Councilor (or whomever your EC is – see for name and address of councilor for your district)

Governor Chris Sununu
Office of the Governor
State House
107 North Main Street
Concord, NH 03301

Sent on behalf of EC4 constituents:

Dear Mr. Watson, Councilor Gatsas, and Governor Sununu,

I would like to express my opinion about the 10-year transportation plan currently being discussed at public sessions being held around the state.

I am particularly concerned that the state of NH is ignoring its own DOT study which suggested that due to the small number of riders who would actually use a commuter rail service between Boston and Manchester, such a service would not be economically feasible unless a sales tax, income tax, or both, was instituted to pay for it.

“O&M costs are typically financed through state and local funding sources. Most state transit funding comes from General Fund appropriations or through traditional taxes and fees, such as motor fuel taxes, sales taxes, and vehicle fees….Local transit funding is primarily provided through General Fund allocations , dedicated local option taxes and fees (sales taxes, property taxes, motor fuel taxes, vehicle fees, employer/payroll taxes, utility taxes/fees, room/occupancy taxes) and value capture mechanisms (impact fees, Tax Increment Financing, special assessment districts, and joint development)”

Please consider this piece by Dick Lemieux, Transportation Engineer, written for the Concord Monitor (NH) on March 17, 2012:

“If I went before the Executive Council and asked for $365 million to build a road that would carry a mere 1,200 cars a day (about one third the traffic on Sewalls Falls Road), I would not expect a warm welcome.

If I asked them to allocate $3.6 million to hire a consultant to try to paint a rosier picture for them, I would expect to leave with a 0-5 vote.

If I tried to justify the request with the claim that 600 individuals, merely by traveling the new road twice daily, would generate sufficient economic benefits to offset the $365 million cost, I would expect to be escorted out of the room in a straitjacket.

Change “road” to “railroad” and “cars” to “passengers,” and that sums up what the rail authority and its supporters have done.

Strangely, they seem to be oblivious to the predictable outcome of asking for what amounts to an average of over $275 per New Hampshire resident for a service that the average resident would use once every six years.

According to the Monitor, the Executive Council’s 3-2 “refusal to use the federal money” left one former state senator “breathless with incredulity.”

The realization that both state and federal rail officials would even consider allocating more than $3 million to study the feasibility of spending more than $600,000 per projected daily roundtrip train passenger should be more than enough to take our breath away. Given the pitiful benefits-to-costs metrics of the project, the real incredulity is that the proposal got as far as it did.

The price of gasoline, our dependence on foreign oil, highway congestion and air pollution would all be unaffected or negatively affected by the transfer of a mere 600 people from buses and cars to a train.

No scrupulous consultant can change the predictions enough to paint this project as feasible, unless the definition of “feasible” includes “losing money forever.” It isn’t clear whether proponents don’t understand that or whether they just don’t care. My appreciation goes to Executive Councilors Dan St. Hilaire, David Wheeler and Chris Sununu for having the reasoning ability and the clairvoyance to pull New Hampshire taxpayers away from the financial abyss known as the “Capitol Corridor.” This should be the last we hear of the boondoggle. But, somehow, I don’t expect it will be.”

I have never seen any rebuttal to any of the multitude of anti-rail articles Lemieux has written, which must add some credibility to his claims. If his conclusions are wrong, why haven’t the NH DOT or the consultants or even the lobbyists challenged him?

You can read more of Dick’s wise advice on commuter rail here:

I and over 300 petition signers are not understanding why this project is even in the plan at all considering the Governor’s past decisions when serving on the Council. I urge all concerned to read our research paper on this subject, which includes at least a dozen other systems that run severely in the red.

Support for rail in NH by the residents has been grossly overstated and facts misquoted by Dan Innis when he suggested it would be used by 670,000 per weekday. (It’s 668,000 RIDERS PER YEAR, not 670,000 per weekday.)

Please place my testimony in the record.