Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Greenway From Hampton to Portsmouth

The corridor toward Portsmouth

The tracks are now gone

The pathway ends at Route 33, Portsmouth, near the graveyard

Last night Mad Dog attended a Greenway meeting withpeople who have worked on the project which would unite Hampton with Portsmouth using the now abandoned rail road bed,   which runs from Boston to Portsmouth, through Seabrook, past the nuclear power plant, past Foss manufacturing, behind Depot Square,  behind the Hampton Hannaford's and on past the old railroad station in North Hampton and on to Rye and Portsmouth.  

Most of the people there were there because they carried in their hearts the burning desire this would become the one protected corridor where kids and families could ride bikes, push strollers completely protected from cars, a safe place where only muscle power propels healthy bodies. 

Because the owner of the land, a company called "Pan Am, " has apparently decided it wants to sell this track to the state of New Hampshire, and because the state could "buy" it with little out of pocket expense, the dollars  mostly coming from Federal programs to promote "green" alternatives and from highway tolls, the prospects for the transfer of this corridor from private to state hands looks promising. 

There have been euphoric  letters to the editor in the Portsmouth Herald about how wonderful a protected space would be for families and bikers--a unique resource in a pedestrian unfriendly Seacoast,  where the car and the motorcycle are king.

But then Fred Rice, a House of Representatives Republican, began his 10 minute monologue about his vision for the former railroad bed : He would make it a one or two lane motorway, with a little bike path running alongside the road. As he has said, before, this would reduce air  pollution, because it would diminish the "congestion" on Route 1 and all those idling motors and their exhausts would vanish, and it would create a commercial corridor with stores springing up all along the roadway.

Fred Rice would pave paradise and put up a parking lot.

Fred Rice knows the best use of land on the Seacoast to to build roads, because roads are...GOOD! And roadside commerce is inevitable. 

Mad Dog objected that: 
A/ Building new roads does not diminish traffic congestion, especially if you are talking about a two lane road. Building more roads just attracts more cars and, presto, your new road is congested.

 B/ Reducing air pollution by building more motorways as opposed to providing a path for bicycles is a very strange notion. Are cars less polluting than bicycles? Does Mr. Rice have any studies for that one?  

C/What makes Mr. Rice think there is enough business to support new stores along his motorway?  Is Route 1 such a successful corridor we need more asphalt for even more stores?  Mad Dog sees enough boarded up stores along Route 1 to make him question Fred's happy picture of a booming commercial corridor along a smaller road when the big road isn't doing all that well.

Mr. Rice does not answer such questions. He simply continues talking, as if simply wishing will make it all come true.  He is a man mired in the discredited certainties of the 1950's when building roads was a pathway to prosperity. Fred Rice is still back in the 20th century, with Eisenhower, wanting to lay down as much concrete as possible across the entire country. 

The folks who want that land transferred from private to public hands grew nervous: At least Mr. Rice wanted that same goal to be achieved--the goal of transferring the land to public ownership. The planners shut down the dog fight. Let's just get the land first. We can argue about what to do with it later.

The problem is, Mr. Rice has nothing else to do but go to government committee meetings, so he would stand a pretty good chance, by simple persistence,  to push his idea of a nice new motorway between Hampton and Portsmouth through all the committees in Concord, past all the commissions--Fred Rice will attend every meeting while the rest of us are at work, and before we know it, we'll have the Fred Rice parkway to reduce air pollution through the wonders of the combustible engine.

Let us hope, if the transfer occurs, we can get Democrats from Hampton to Portsmouth, out on that trail, from which the railroad tracks have now been removed. Once people start walking it, riding their bicycles on it, the possibilities may kindle enough ardor among young families, they'll actually organize to prevent the transformation of a potential parkland into another motorway.



  1. Mad Dog,
    Where was the meeting held and did it have a good turnout-hope so..When did they remove the tracks and are they gone all the way to Portsmouth?
    So Fred Rice continues to favor his convoluted pollution reduction plan over a bike path-was he the only one on that page or were there others? So glad you were there to defend truth, justice and the American way..did you have a little verbal duel with Fred? If so, I'm sorry I missed it..I'll have to take my dog for a walk on it sometime now that it seems more walker friendly..

  2. Maud,

    Tuesday, in Exeter 156 Water Street. Scott Bogle who has some post as a planner, someone from Portsmouth, a guy from Hampton Parks and Recreation, two other men, and Fred Rice.
    Mad Dog laid into Fred Rice with such ferocity others intervened to stop it.
    In future meetings, Mad Dog will try to be less Mad and more Dog, using his brother's technique of withering irony, laughing at the man rather than threatening him.
    Mad Dog said, among other things, "Fred, you are the only man in New Hampshire who thinks you can cure road congestion by building another one lane road, and the only person on earth who thinks you can cure air pollution by building another motorway."
    I was told later nobody in the room agreed with him. But it's the folks in the rooms Fred will visit in the future I'm worried about.
    The man is mired in some antediluvian time frame.
    The rails, valuable metal, are gone all the way to Portsmouth. You can now ride unvexed to Rte 33, or walk your dog. Mad Dog takes his dog down there to cross country ski but you can walk at this time of year. Park in Depot Square behind the garage and walk under the Rte 27 overpass, and you are on the trail.
    Technically, the land is still owned by Pan Am, so we cannot hold demonstrations there, yet.

    --Mad Dog