Federal Railroad Administration drops plans for the Saybrook for the Saybrook for the Saybrook -to -Kenyon high Kenyon high -speed rail speed rail bypass
July 13, 2017 03:01AM By Catherine Hewitt Sun staff writer
The Federal Railroad Administration has withdrawn the controversial New Haven-to-Providence “Kenyon Bypass” portion of its proposed Northeast Corridor planning initiative, known as NEC FUTURE.
In announcing the decision Wednesday, the administration also called on leaders in Connecticut and Rhode Island to work together and with federal rail officials to develop improvements under the “New Haven to Providence Capacity Planning Study” to determine the best way to meet future needs.
The decision came in the form of the administration’s official “Record of Decision,” and is considered a victory for communities across southeastern Connecticut and southern Rhode Island where the vast majority of residents and officials opposed the plan, which would have added tracks inland, parallel to the existing shoreline tracks, through residential, business, farm and conservation land.
The Record of Decision completes the “Tier 1” Environmental Impact Statement for NEC FUTURE and identifies the final selected route of the FRA’s planning initiative for improved passenger rail service between Washington, D.C., and Boston.
Stonington First Selectman Rob Simmons issued a statement via email soon after the decision, saying “This proposal promised to destroy the communities we love, was outrageously expensive and would not provide significant improvement in service or speed to the traveling public. Now I hope the FRA, Amtrak and the state focus on what we really want — Shoreline East Service to Mystic and Westerly, reliable and affordable train service to Boston and New York; tilt-technology to improve train performance on curves; and fixing the un-safe crossings at Walker’s Dock and Elihu Island here in Stonington.”
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (Conn.-2nd District) hailed the withdrawal of the plan and commended the work of citizens across the region who were opposed to the bypass.
“The welcome demise of the misguided and poorly conceived plan to realign railway tracks through communities across the southeastern Connecticut shoreline is a testament to the grass-roots effort and perseverance of local residents and town leaders,” Courtney said in a release.
“From the start, the creation of a new bypass was a proposal untethered from reality. Whether it was the plan’s exorbitant cost without a funding source [or] 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.”
Courtney said he “could not be more pleased” that the proposal to cut new tracks through and tunnel under Old Lyme, the Connecticut River and towns to the east, had been completely scrapped.
Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce President Lisa Konicki, though, cautioned that planned further study of New Haven-to-Providence capacity means the region must still be vigilant.
“We did not win or lose the battle — YET!” she said in an email. “The good news is that the Old Lyme to Kenyon bypass is no longer listed as a preferred alternative. This is a very positive step for property owners and property values. A black cloud has been removed, which will encourage continued economic development and future investments along the shoreline.
“We now place our faith in RIDOT and CTDOT to work with the FRA on a good-faith process to evaluate the New Haven to Providence corridor and impacts of the various route alternatives.”
The Record of Decision removes the track realignment proposal — published in the December 16, 2016 Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement — between New Haven and Providence. Instead, it calls on leaders in Connecticut and Rhode Island to collaborate on a new initiative called the “New Haven to Providence Capacity Planning Study” to determine the best way to meet future service and capacity needs.
The railroad administration is expected to cooperate with the two states in the new study, and will recommend that Massachusetts and other stakeholders, such as Amtrak, collaborate in the process. In addition to the study, the Record of Decision recommends that this section of track improve rail service through a state of good repair along its current footprint.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy also commended the railroad administration for responding to his “consistent urging” to focus future recommendations on upgrading and maintaining a “state of good repair” of the tracks and to enhance the performance of the existing rail corridor rather than realigning the tracks.
According to Malloy’s statement, the administration’s decision does not include any specific “alternative alignments” in Connecticut and along the entire corridor but, instead, identifies “areas for future capacity planning efforts to be initiated and led by the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island.”
“The Federal Railroad Administration has developed a vision for the future of the Northeast Corridor and issued a decision that provides a path forward for expanding capacity and improving performance of the existing railroad,” Malloy said. “They have responded directly to requests made by the State of Connecticut to enable significant and necessary investments to address an estimated $38 billion backlog in state-of-good-repair assets, and we thank them for their consideration of our concerns.”
Final Environmental Impact Statement
Northeast Corridor Rail Improvement Project
proposed by the Federal Railroad Administration
Significant Siting and Design Impacts on Charlestown
The NEC Tier 1 EIS is available for viewing by clicking on the NEC-FUTURE icon above or directly at http://www.necfuture.com/tier1_eis/feis/. The Town Council would appreciate you taking the time to review the documents placed on the website and sending your comments directly to U.S. DOT Federal Railroad Administration, One Bowling Green, Suite 429, New York, NY 10004 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To submit comments to the Charlestown Town Council please email at Amtrak-Comments@charlestownri.org or write care of the Administrator’s Office, Town Hall, 4540 South County Trail.
Click on AMTRAK icon above to see additional Information and Reports
For your comments to the Town or Town Council for this topic
Please use this email:
- Narragansett Tribal Land
- Historic Buildings
- Drinking Water
- Parks and Hiking Trails
- Private Property Rights
- Public Trust in Land Conservation
- And Remove the Sword Hanging Over Property Owner’s Heads for 30 to 50 Years
- Brett Smiley, Governor Raimondo’s Chief of Staff
- Lisa Vura-Weis, Deputy Chief of Staff, and
- Gabe Amo from Community Affairs and Outreach
- Senior staff in US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s Providence office, George Carvalho and Karen Bradbury
- Stuart Malec from Congressman Langevin’s office
- Three members of the Narragansett Tribe: Dinalyn Spears, Narragansett Tribal Planner; Lorraine Keyes, and Steven Smith
- Charlestown residents Kim Coulter, owner of Stoney Hill Cattle Farm; Michael Rzewuski, a four+ decade resident of Shumankanuc Hill; Karen Jarret, President of the Charlestown Land Trust; Carla and Russ Ricci, owners of the Amos Green Farm; and Tom Gentz, past Charlestown Town Council President
- Derrik Kennedy, Westerly Town Manager
- Kelly Presley, Executive Director and Sheila Beattie, Board Chair from the Westerly Land Trust
- Narragansett tribal land and sacred burial sites
- Hundreds of acres of active farms
- Nearly 1,800 acres of park lands and other conserved open space including the Carter and Grills Preserve
- The Wild and Scenic Pawcatuck River
- The EPA designated sole source aquifer that is the source of drinking water for both towns
- Important wildlife habitat including the USFWS “Great Thicket”
- Three historic sites listed on the historic register
- Private homes
- The environmental justice issue of destroying low and moderate income housing in the villages
- Property contaminated by the United Nuclear Facility and currently used passively in The Nature Conservancy’s Francis Carter Preserve
- Residents’ housing and land value reduction for the next 30-50 years or more
- The safety and integrity of the Town’s main drinking water wells
- Loss of economic development opportunities in the Downtown
- Disruption of one of the Town’s natural water retention ponds
- Loss of recreational greenspace for the community
Show your support to Stop the Bypass:
- Write letters to the Governor and to Senators Reed and Whitehouse and Congressman Langevin requesting they write a letter to FRA to omit the bypass and keep the fast rain on the current railroad right of way before Jan 30th.
- Write to the Federal Railroad Administration and others before the January 31 deadline.