Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Amtrak plan to speed up travel between N.Y. and Boston causing concern in rural towns

A $120 million federal plan to speed up Amtrak travel between New York and Boston isn't going over well in rural towns in Connecticut and Rhode Island that could be negatively affected by the increased traffic and new tracks, Joseph De Avila reports for The Wall Street Journal. (Journal graphic: Proposed new segment of Amtrak travel between New York and Boston)
Cutting the three-hour and 30 minute trip by 45 minutes would require bringing "four new track lines and as many as 110 trains a day under its historic downtown in a tunnel" in Old Lyme, Conn., a town of 7,600 southwest of Boston, De Avila writes. Lawmakers in Connecticut and Rhode Island said the plan also would "cut through farmland, wetlands and private property along a 35-mile stretch where the new trains could zoom through at speeds of as much as 220 miles an hour. Current speeds are limited to 50 miles an hour in some spots."

The Federal Railroad Administration’s proposal, "the first comprehensive plan to upgrade the northeast corridor rail line since 1978, aims to run more trains, more quickly, but can do that only by drawing a straighter route that would largely run from Old Saybrook, Conn., through Kenyon, R.I., north of the current track," De Avila writes. "The existing track and its stations would continue to operate, but wouldn’t be able to accommodate faster speeds."

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Sen. Chris Murphy, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, all Democrats, have opposed the plan, Don Stacom reports for the Hartford Courant. Blumenthal told reporters, "This plan looks more like fantasy than fact, and we're going to fight it. The feeling in Stamford is similar to southeastern Connecticut: People want safe, reliable and fast trains, but the devil is in the details."

Part of the plan includes smoothing out a curved stretch of railroad in Charleston, R.I. That has residents fearful they could be forced off their property, R.J. Heim reports for WJAR in Providence. "One stretch in particular, between New London and Charlestown, called the 'Preferred Alternative Proposal', would have a major impact on residents, wetlands, and preserves throughout Washington County." (Wikipedia map: Washington County, Rhode Island (Charleston is bright red))

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