The path to a rail trail

Sometimes, ambitious projects might seem improbable or too difficult to achieve. While the Souhegan Valley Rail Trail would not be an easy undertaking, there are clear and specific steps that can be taken in order to advance the cause. The work of dedicated volunteers, professionals, and advocates has laid out a path forward that should be taken in order to take tangible steps toward a rail trail in the Souhegan Valley.

While these steps are not the only way to make progress on this project, and they may not necessarily be taken in this order or in a specific manner, they do lay out a general framework that can be pursued. By breaking down the rainmaking process into more tangible steps, the project becomes clearer and allows volunteers to focus on those areas in which they might be most apt to contribute or enjoy.

Form an organization

Establishing a dedicated organization of advocates is essential to advancing the cause for alternative transportation in the region. The Friends of the Souhegan Valley Rail Trail stands to be able to be a consistent presence in the area, working over time to facilitate the effort and ensure that every opportunity is taken.Step 1

Develop a grassroots movement

Large infrastructure projects can be expensive and take time. In order for the Souhegan Valley Rail Trail (and alternative transportation as a whole) to become a reality, residents, businesses, and public officials need to learn about the vision, understand the the many benefits, and value the effort. Subsequent steps will be difficult to achieve without developing a broad base of support for the project.

Step 2

Work with public officials & key figures

The decision to fund and proceed with infrastructure projects relies on the support of elected officials, state and municipal employees, landowners, and a few others. It is imperative to work with these key figures and incorporate them into the process of advancing alternative transportation in the region.

Step 3

Seek funding

The prospect of a rail trail in the Souhegan Valley will ultimately come down to funding. Whether federal or state funding, grant opportunities, investment by local businesses, and/or private donations, there are many ways to advance the cause.

What are some of the things funding would do? Projects like these are not as simple as "raise money and built it". The corridor has many needs, some big and some small, that will need to be funded in order to make this a reality. Some of these include surveying, engineering, promoting public involvement, purchasing corridor access, construction itself, rail trail amenities, and even connections with other areas with branches.

While it is possible the entire route could be built all at once, this would likely require a major political effort to obtain federal funding. While that funding is being sought, it is prudent to pursue longer-term options by advancing funding for pieces of the route, no matter how small.

Step 4

Pursue corridor access

A rail trail can't exist without the land on which to built it. Access to the Hillsborough Branch Rail Line's corridor has to be obtained in order to advance any projects along the route. The corridor is currently for sale, along with all other real estate holdings of Pan American Railways. This allows for an exceptional opportunity to procure access to the route. Whether by purchasing the land outright, obtaining a permanent easement, or reaching an agreement with a future buyer, this step is required for any tangible progress.

Step 5

Promote projects and build

In the end, rail trails efforts need to result in construction. Depending on the steps above, the speed and manner in which projects can be built could come in many forms.

Projects come in all sizes, whether a single piece of land or the entire corridor, every opportunity to further the construction of the route should be pursued whenever they arise.

Step 6