HARTFORD, CT — The Federal Railroad Administration admitted Wednesday there was too much public opposition to its plan to lay new tracks from Old Saybrook to Kenyon, Rhode Island to expand rail service in the Northeast Corridor.
In its decision, the FRA said it scrapped the proposal because of the “extensive level of concern from the public, local institutions and organizations, as well as local and state elected officials in Old Lyme.”
The public comment was so voluminous it took up its own section of the report.
Instead, the FRA said it’s leaving the discussions about expanding capacity up to officials in Connecticut and Rhode Island. There is no deadline set for the capacity discussion to conclude, according to the report.
The decision released Wednesday was applauded by Connecticut officials who unanimously panned the alternative route suggestion.
“From the start, the creation of a new bypass was a proposal untethered from reality,” U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney said. “Whether it was the plan’s exorbitant cost without a funding source, the disruption ‘Kenyon Bypass’ would cause from Old Lyme to New London to Stonington, the mere existence of this map cast a cloud of uncertainty and doubt across a region with a history and environment as rich and valuable as any place in our nation.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said there’s no need for further study of the Old Saybrook-to-Rhode Island bypass. “Not a single penny nor minute of effort need be spent to conclude this bypass is a non-starter,” Blumenthal said.
Local lawmakers also applauded the decision.
“The people of Southeastern Connecticut spoke up and made their voices heard loud and clear that this rail bypass would have deeply disrupted and hurt our communities,” Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, said. “Learning that the federal government has withdrawn this plan in favor of other improvements is a testament to what we can accomplish when we join our voices together.”
The Federal Railroad Administration has said the expansion is crucial to improve service for 1.4 million riders a year between Boston and New York. They said the improvements proposed for the Northeast Corridor would decrease travel times from Boston to New York City by 45 minutes and New York City to Washington by 35 minutes.
The other projects along the Northeast Corridor that made it through the first phase of the process will proceed as Connecticut and Rhode Island study how best to improve service, while considering the local landscape and the historic nature of the communities along the shore.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the FRA decision does what it needs to do. He said the FRA needs to focus on improving the existing rail corridor, which Wednesday’s decision achieves.
“Now that the decision is final, it is time for the federal government to step up and invest to bring the Northeast Corridor into a state of good repair, which is essential for the economy of the entire region,” Malloy said.
The Northeast Corridor generates $3 trillion in annual economic output and is home to more than 51 million people and four of the 10 largest metropolitan areas in the United States. The rail line carries over 820,000 passengers each day and its infrastructure supports eight commuter rail operators that deliver hundreds of thousands of workers to several of our nation’s largest economic centers.