The Central Corridor Rail Coalition and the New England Central Railroad sponsored a train ride Thursday in an attempt to highlight the need for a proposed project to enhance freight service from New London to Brattleboro, VT.
The ride began at New London's Union Station early Thursday morning, and on its way to Vermont, it made stops at other locations in Connecticut, as well as in Massachusetts.
"This trip opened the eyes for all of us as to what this rail line can do for southeast Connecticut," said New London businessman John Johnson.
The proposed rail upgrades would enhance freight service to create the first north-south heavy rail capacity, multi-state corridor route in New England. The old tracks will only allow a top speed of 15 mph.
In addition, the hope is to restore passenger rail service along the New England Central rail line from New London to Brattleboro.
"I lived in Willimantic and we took the train years ago," said Robin Rouse of Willimantic. "It used to go to Vermont and it was a lot of fun and had people getting out to explore new places."
The NECR also provides local rail service and connects with all four of the major Class I railroads that operate in New England. In addition, it also provides access to several New England ports such as New London and the Port of Montreal.
"Certainly, if there was restored railroad service I'd be anxious to use it," said Howard Cohn of Washington, DC.
Coalition Leader Todd O'Donnell estimates it will cost about $140 million to $150 million to make the necessary upgrades. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who went on the train ride, said the upgrades are possible as long as Connecticut applies for federal funding because the project goes through three states.
"If we had the right rail, the commerce would come," said Bob Mills of Norwich Community Development Corporation. "We have some unique opportunities."
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