MANCHESTER - Rep. Charlie Bass will take state and local officials on a train ride from Lowell, Mass., to Manchester Monday, pushing for commuter rail service but offering no timetable.
“You're talking about way down the road,” the New Hampshire Republican said in a telephone interview from Washington Thursday.
Bass has worked to help collect $24 million of an estimated $80 million needed to link Lowell to south Nashua. He doesn't have a price tag for what it would take to extend service to Manchester.
“Ultimately, the dream is we have a good reliable inexpensive commuter system for people in southern New Hampshire, which links Manchester and Nashua and Boston,” Bass said. “It'd be an enormous economic boon for the area and it relieves over the long term, serious congestion on I-93.”
State officials are proceeding with plans to widen nearly 20 miles of Interstate 93 from Manchester to Salem at a cost approaching $500 million.
Airport Director Kevin Dillon backs efforts to extend train service. He supports building a train station near the planned airport access road, set to open in 2009. He thinks a station could be built in Bedford with airport buses or vans shuttling passengers to the airport.
“The airport is prepared to commit our resources and our funding toward an airport station that will serve the airport,” Dillon said.
Growth at the airport in the next decade shows more passengers coming from northern Massachusetts, and rail would provide them with an alternate way of getting to the airport.
State Highway Commissioner Carol Murray, Manchester Mayor Bob Baines, Nashua Mayor Bernie Streeter, Senate President Ted Gatsas and others will make stops in Manchester and Nashua during the train excursion.
“The purpose of the demonstration on Monday is to remind people that the track beds exist and (of) the need to focus and concentrate the priority of passenger rail as one of the key transportation alternatives for southern New Hamphire,” Bass said.
Baines said commuters need to leave their cars behind.
“It's essential because of the clogging of the interstates,” Baines said. “We have to find ways to get people off the highway and one way to do that is opening up the rail corridors for the transportation needs of the state.”