Publisher's Note: Get moving
By Jody Reese
Even as some wonder if there really is an economic recovery underway, gasprices are creeping up. Experts now think that
when the economy heats back up gas will easily surpass $5 per gallon, possibly hitting $10 a gallon by 2015.
While these types of predictions have been made before and not come true, it seems reasonable for us to consider the possibility and the ramifications to our local economy. It might even be a good idea to start planning for that eventuality.
One of the main planning thrusts has been to look at high-speed rail from the Merrimack Valley into Boston. For Concord, Manchester and Nashua this would be a huge boon, though such a rail line wouldn’t come cheaply. New Hampshire has already lost out on millions for the stimulus package because the state turned down the idea of planning a Boston-to-Montreal rail line in 2004. Rail does seem to be one of those few issues that unite Republicans and Democrats; and while the state is already dealing with increasing costs and decreasing revenue, rail needs to be on the agenda or we’ll never be ready for $10 gas.
In Manchester a group aptly named Manchester Moves is filling in where local government doesn’t do a good job of treading, focusing on turning abandoned rail beds into bicycle and walking trails. Already people are using the trail on the West Side and many more miles could be used up. Trails could be linked up from Goffstown village to Newmarket. What a selling point to retiring Boomers — live in a city, bike into the country.
Nashua has the beginnings of an excellent trail system along the river, as does Concord. In fact, it might be possible to link them all up. Of course bicycling is not a reasonable solution to $10 gasoline. Riding to work is only workable a few days a year when you factor in rain and winter. While mass transit, such as trains and buses, is useful to take people into larger cities, such as Boston, they too can’t solve how we’ll get around affordably if gas goes that high.
It’s likely a mixture of trails, mass transit and market solutions, such as electric cars, all aided by civic groups and the government, will be the mostly likely and successful solutions. There will be no silver bullet.