Statewide organization calls for plan to be cut from Northeast Corridor upgrade

Statewide organization calls for plan to be cut from Northeast Corridor upgrade

The Westerly Sun


Daniel Mackay, executive director of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, said this week that he was wary of a statement by the state Department of Transportation that appeared to accept the possibility that the proposed Old Saybrook to Kenyon railroad bypass might eventually be constructed.

Mackay’s group is calling for the removal of all references to the proposal in the Federal Railroad Administration’s upcoming Record of Decision on the North East Corridor Future project.

The railroad agency’s decision would complete the five-year Tier I planning process of developing a blueprint for rail travel and investment along the Northeast Corridor for the next 30 to 40 years. No date has been scheduled for its release. The proposed 50-mile bypass, intended to straighten the tracks and upgrade infrastructure, would travel through residential and commercial neighborhoods, farmland, preservation areas, and other points that local interests have sought to protect.

“Connecticut DOT now refers to ‘aspirational recommendations’ for the high-speed rail corridor in Connecticut,” Mackay said in a press release. “As this process nears completion, it is critical that the public and municipal officials realize that any language in the Record of Decision which references proposed bypasses in New London and Fairfield counties, as well as in Rhode Island, leaves the door open for these projects in the next stages of planning. It is imperative that FRA and Connecticut DOT permanently bar the door against these destructive bypass proposals.”

On Feb. 10, Mackay wrote an email to Richard Andreski, bureau chief for public transportation for the Connecticut DOT, asking for a commitment from the DOT and from the railroad administration that the bypass not be reintroduced or reconsidered at any point as the rail project moves forward.

The trust also expressed concern about another proposed bypass from New Rochelle, N.Y., to Greens Farms, in Fairfield County. This bypass would require a separate Environmental Impact Statement, trust representatives said, and should only be added to the NEC Future project following more careful consideration.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., also brought attention to federal railroad plans to double the existing rail footprint, from two to four tracks, between Branford and Guilford.

In a letter April 12 to Patrick Warren, acting administrator for the railroad administration, the senator said that objections to the proposal should be addressed immediately, given the expected release of the NEC Future Record of Decision.

After nearly 16 months of work opposing the bypass of existing tracks through this region, Gregory Stroud, director of special projects at the Connecticut Trust, said he was hopeful that it would be eliminated from the final decision.

“On the merits, we believe we’ve made a compelling case that the Federal Railroad Administration delivered a terrifically flawed plan, with too many impacts, and too few benefits for Connecticut,” he said.

Stroud also pointed to strong bipartisan support for dropping the bypass from Rhode Island and Connecticut representatives at the local, state, and federal levels.

chewitt@thewesterlysun.com


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