Connecticut officials express concerns over rail alignment - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Connecticut officials express concerns over rail alignment

Posted: Updated:
(WFSB file photo) (WFSB file photo)

A number of Connecticut lawmakers and officials said they're concerned about federal plans to realign the eastern shoreline rail.

The Federal Railroad Administration released its final environmental impact statement on Friday for the northeast corridor.

The plan is to rebuild the corridor over the next 30 years. It'll expand service and speed up travel, with some trains being able to reach 220 mph on part of the Washington-Boston route.

The FRA said the aim is to cut delays and increase capacity by upgrading bridges and tunnels. It also wants to eliminate curves.

The changes could cut travel between New York and Washington by 35 minutes and 45 min. to an hour for trips between New York and Boston.

Connecticut's officials, however, were not impressed.

Rep. Joe Courtney, Gov. Dannel Malloy, Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Sen. Chris Murphy released a joint statement to voice their concerns.

"The FRA's report released today continues to ignore strong and consistent concerns expressed by the State of Connecticut and local citizens about the eastern shoreline realignment plans. We specifically asked FRA to limit the NEC Future Tier 1 EIS to identify a service and investment strategy to achieve state-of- good repair and maximize the capacity, frequency and speed of existing rail lines. By continuing to include plans to bypass the current route, the FRA has enflamed impacted communities stretching from Fairfield County to Stonington where the proposed alignment will eviscerate neighborhoods, historic landmarks, and real estate values.

As the FRA itself has confirmed, this new proposed alignment cannot ultimately receive the permits, rights of way and other critical elements without the support and approval of the State of Connecticut. To this end, we will continue to do all we can to remove this bypass from the final FRA plan in order to provide our communities with the certainty they deserve. Should the FRA continue in its pursuit of its proposed alignment, we will work to ensure that Connecticut exercises every tool at its disposal at the state and federal levels to stop any effort to move forward with this misguided plan."

Local leaders praised some aspects of the massive northeast corridor, like improvements between Hartford and Springfield. But they said they can't get behind what this plan will do to Southeast Connecticut.

"It's going to destroy our communities in Southeastern Connecticut and kill of the tourism industry which is one of the biggest segments of our economy," Stonington first selectman Rob Simmons said.

He had strong words for those who proposed the plan.

"We need to go to Washington D.C. and strangle whoever brought it forward at whatever expense," Simmons said.

The FRA estimated that the project will cost about $120 billion.

However, it's up to the states, railroads and President-elect Donald Trump to determine if it'll happen.

Copyright 2016 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.