The Durham-UNH Amtrak station on the University of New Hampshire campus celebrated surpassing the 1 million passenger milestone Thursday, March 23, with the arrival of a Downeaster train, becoming just the second Amtrak station in the state to reach seven figures in ridership.
The celebration welcomed passengers arriving on and boarding train No. 684. It featured an appearance by Wild E. Cat and passengers were gifted swag bags from Amtrak and Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority (NNEPRA).
UNH is one of only a handful of universities in the country to have Amtrak service accessible on the main campus. The Downeaster provides direct access to Boston and 11 additional station communities, including Portland, Maine.
The station, which the university acquired from the Boston & Maine railroad in the early 1970s for $1, began Amtrak service in 2001. It has proven a mutually beneficial partnership for UNH, the town of Durham and Amtrak in the more than two decades since.
“The Downeaster is a terrific benefit for the collective Durham and UNH community enabling residents, UNH faculty, staff and students alike to seamlessly travel south to Boston or north to Brunswick, and all the stops in between,” says Todd Selig, Durham town administrator. “It’s convenient and fun, and takes the stress out of daily commuting, a daytrip to L.L. Bean in Freeport, a visit to Old Orchard Beach, or attending a Celtics or Red Sox game in Boston. What an amenity for our community.”
Access to the Downeaster train on campus is part of a suite of transportation options available to students, including Wildcat Transit, Campus Connector, ZipCar and the recently launched Cat Trax bike share program, Steve Pesci, special projects director at UNH, noted. Those options are designed to allow students to explore campus and the region without the cost of owning, maintaining and paying for parking of a private vehicle.
“UNH has worked with our state and federal transportation partners to steadily improve the station site as the Downeaster has flourished,” Pesci says. The station received a renovation between 2008 and 2010 that included the addition of the UNH Dairy Bar on site. A renovation and expansion of the north canopy of the station is in design this year and slated to be completed in late 2024.
“NNEPRA congratulates Durham and UNH on achieving this millionth passenger milestone. This accomplishment is a testimony to the positive working relationship we have with the town, the university and the students who use the service and recognize its importance as part of a modern transportation system,” Patricia Quinn, executive director of Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, says.