Laconia, N.H., faces opposition to removing active railroad tracks in favor of trail

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
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Pulling out train tracks is like removing the spine of the economy. That’s what several people expressed during a Laconia (N.H.) City Council meeting.

City officials want to remove train tracks in favor of extending a recreational trail. Ben Clark, president of Plymouth and Lincoln Railroad, was one of many expressing opposition to the move. The Plymouth and Lincoln Railroad pay $100,000 in fees to the state of New Hampshire every year. Clark says a study done by Stone Consulting revealed many of the passengers that ride the Plymouth and Lincoln Railroad boost the region’s economy through retail purchases.

The WOW Trail Committee, however, has its own numbers. According to an Alta Planning & Design report, a completed trail in place of tracks would generate $6.3 million annually. Plymouth and Lincoln Railroad would still be able to take passengers to Meredith (from The Weirs) and Lincoln. However, the railroader would lose its connection to the main line track, which runs through New Hampshire and beyond. The WOW study also revealed it would be less expensive to pull the track rather than run a trail alongside of it.

The WOW Trail is currently 8 miles long, but there are 10 miles worth of gaps, including a 4-mile section between Lakeport and The Weirs.

The Aeronautics, Rail and Transit for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation owns the railroad corridor and controls what happens in it, and is in opposition of the trail extension.

At the end of the night the Laconia City Council agreed to table the discussion of the track so it could review both studies.

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