MBRX/PAR: Trail-Alongside-Rail proposed for Hillsborough Branch


03.December, Nashua NH – The Nashua Regional Planning Commission is proposing to construct a lengthy pedestrian trail alongside the Hillsborough Branch line. The line is owned by Pan Am Railways between MP 0.0 to MP 16.36. From that point westward to Bennington, the line is owned by the State of New Hampshire. Milford – Bennington Railroad operates primarily along a ~5-mile stretch between the Granite State Concrete quarry in Wilton, and the same company’s aggregate processing plant in Milford, running over state-owned and PAR-owned sections of track.

Hillsborough Branch proposed trail
As proposed by the Nashua (NH) Regional Planning Comission, the Souhegan Valley Rail Trail will run for 16.36 miles (MP 0.0 – MP 16.36) alongside the track, including the ~5 miles operated by MBRX between Milford and Wilton. The section of track is currently owned by PAR, and will transfer to CSX on consummation of an announced sale between the two railroads.

NRPC asserts that the current pedestrian option along NH Route 101 is unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists. NRPC estimates that there are 3,000 households with members who don’t have access to a motor vehicle or can’t drive within two miles of the corridor, making it a relevant problem for many people.

No interference with rail operation

The NRPC plan adds a paved path parallel to the tracks, through the corridor. Access would be acquired by an easement or by purchasing land adjacent to the track for a trail. NRPC suggests that there are other trails across the country that run parallel to active tracks, and are statistically safer modes of travel for pedestrians than walking on the street or even on a sidewalk.

The NRPC plan at this point is recruiting volunteers to lay the groundwork for the possibility of a future trail and gauging public interest. Before the project could even get off the ground, the state would first have to negotiate with Pan Am the current owner of the line, or CSX in the expected event that they complete their purchase agreement for Pan Am.

Milford-Bennington Railroad owner Peter Leishman, who also serves as the State Representative for New Hampshire District 24, is confident that the rail line and a pedestrian corridor can work together. “They made it clear they’re not looking to see the line removed, but to coexist,” Leishman said.

If the proposal gains public support, and the owner of the line is amenable to the concept, next steps include an environmental and engineering study to determine the feasibility of building a trail. There are several points where the  rail line goes over bridges or crosses wetlands, and a crossing that cuts across Route 101 which would require creative solutions to resolve. {Monadnock Ledger-Transcript}