Lowell, Massachusetts-Nashua, New Hampshire/Lowell-Nashua Commuter Rail Extension

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Lowell-Nashua Commuter Rail Extension

Lowell, Massachusetts-Nashua, New Hampshire

(November 2000)


The New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) is proposing to design and construct a 12-mile extension of an existing commuter rail line from Lowell, Massachusetts to Nashua, New Hampshire. The proposed project would extend existing commuter rail service provided by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) on an anticipated schedule of six round trips per weekday and three roundtrips on Saturdays. The proposed service extension would provide an alternative to a highly congested highway corridor and is also anticipated to provide traffic mitigation during the planned expansion of Route 3 in Massachusetts. The proposed project also includes the purchase of commuter rail equipment for use by the MBTA, rehabilitation of existing track and the construction of new trackage (where necessary), and a park-and-ride lot with a boarding platform near Everett Turnpike (Exit 2) in Nashua. MBTA anticipates 900 average weekday boardings in FY 2003.

The Lowell, MA-Nashua, NH commuter rail extension is located in an area generally paralleling Route 3 in Massachusetts. NHDOT plans to execute an agreement with the MBTA (primary commuter rail operator in New England) to operate the commuter rail extension project. The total capital cost for the commuter rail extension project is estimated at $41 million (escalated dollars), with a proposed Section 5309 new starts share of $18 million. Since the proposed new starts share is less than $25 million, the project is exempt from the New Starts criteria (see 49 USC Section 5309 (e)(8)(A)).

Lowell-Nashua Commuter Rail Summary Description

Proposed Project Commuter Rail Extension
12 miles, 1 station
Total Capital Cost ($YOE) $41.00 million
Section 5309 Share ($YOE) $18.00 million
Annual Operating Cost ($1999) $1.70 million
Ridership Forecast (2003) 900 average weekday boardings


The Nashua Regional Planning Commission, in cooperation with the City of Nashua, NHDOT and other participatory agencies, has studied the feasibility of restoring commuter rail service to southern New Hampshire since the early 1980s. In 1999, NRPC completed a Major Investment Study that analyzed the passenger rail market, required capital investments, operational issues and several alternatives to the commuter rail extension option. In June 1999, NRPC and NHDOT selected the extension of commuter rail service from Nashua to Lowell as the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA). The LPA was also included in the NRPC’s long-range transportation plan. FTA approved NHDOT’s request to initiate preliminary engineering on the project in May 2000. NHDOT is currently undergoing the environmental review phase for the proposed project.

Section 3030(a)(49) of TEA-21 authorizes the “Nashua, NH-Lowell, MA Commuter Rail” for final design and construction. Through FY 2000, Congress has appropriated $2.95 million in Section 5309 New Starts funds for the project.

Locally Proposed Financing Plan

(Reported in $YOE)

Proposed Source of Funds Total Funding
Appropriations to Date
Section 5309 New Starts $18.00 $2.95 million appropriated through FY 2001
CMAQ $14.50 N/A
General Appropriations $8.20 N/A
Total: $41.00

Note: Funding proposal reflects assumptions made by project sponsors, and are not DOT or FTA assumptions. Totals may not add due to rounding.

Lowell-Nashua Map of 12-mile extension of existing commuter rail line from Lowell, Massachusetts to Nashua, New Hampshire.