HARTFORD, CT — Although local, state, and federal officials from Connecticut have made their opposition to a controversial plan to bring high-speed rail through a historic part of Old Lyme loud and clear, they aren’t letting up.
The Transportation Committee held a public hearing Monday on a resolution proposed by Rep. Devin Carney, R-Old Saybrook, and Sen. Paul M. Formica, R-Niantic, “to object to the proposal by the Federal Railroad Administration regarding construction of a bypass on the Northeast Corridor rail line between Old Saybrook, to Kenyon, Rhode Island, through the scenic and historic towns of southeast Connecticut.”
Speaker after speaker implored the committee to get their fellow legislators to take a stand.
The message got through.
Rep. Tony Guerrera, co-chairman of the Transportation Committee, said he had “serious concerns” about the project, stating the impact it would have on “some of these communities would be devastating.”
But the Federal Railroad Administration concluded it was crucial to improving service for 1.4 million riders a year between Boston and New York. They said the improvements would decrease travel times from Boston to New York City by 45 minutes and New York City to Washington by 35 minutes.
“While building this recommendation would require significant investment, the cost of doing nothing is much greater,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has said. “The communities and the economies of the Northeast cannot grow and flourish without significant, new investment.”
Formica isn’t buying that argument.
“Let’s fix what we have,” Formica said. He also criticized the FRA for trying to push the project through “in the dark of night.”
Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, who has been a consistent critic of the project, told the Transportation Committee that the plan has already had an impact on those who live in town.
The rail line would “cut through historic properties in Old Lyme, our limited commercial area that houses our only grocery store, post office, and banks and risk damage to the fragile Connecticut River estuary.”
Furthermore, Reemsnyder said, the Warren Group, a real estate appraisal agency, reported that home sales in Old Lyme dropped 31 percent in 2016 and median prices dropped 13 percent. While throughout New London county sales were up 9 percent and median prices were up 2 percent.”
She said while no one can say for sure why the home sales slump is happening, those looking for homes are reporting that they do not want to buy “due to the line on the map.”
Besides local and state officials, the plan has been criticized by U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, U.S. Rep Joe Courtney, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.