Opponents Of Southeastern Connecticut Rail Plan Ask For Legislative Assistance

Feb 7, 2017

Opponents of a new rail bypass plan for shoreline Connecticut want to see intervention from state lawmakers. Two bills before the General Assembly would mandate that changes to the state’s rail service could only take place after referendums in affected communities.

In late December last year, the Federal Railroad Administration released the latest iteration of its plan to upgrade the Northeast Corridor, including rerouting the line in several places. The aim is to be able to accommodate much higher speed trains.

But many sections of the proposal have caused an outcry in Connecticut, including a $10 billion tunnel in Old Lyme and routing the line through the Mystic Aquarium.

State Senator Paul Formica gave testimony Monday to the legislature’s transportation committee. "We're hoping that the entire assembly can get behind this resolution and just voice their opposition to this," he told lawmakers.

"This is not the days of the wild west when we had clear open territory to lay track," he went on. "There is a huge amount of implications both to quality of life, to environmental needs, to the historic districts, and just to really clear, commonsense and reason."

In New London, the bypass would ignore Union Station, a key part of the city's transit oriented development plan, and cut a swath through the city’s central business district.

"The proposed bypass would create a new rail corridor through New London that would wipe out a significant portion of the existing tax generating property," said Mayor Michael Passero. "New London simply cannot afford to lose any more taxable land.”

Freshman state Senator Heather Somers wants the legislature to deny state funding to any proposal that hasn’t consulted every affected municipality. "The FRA plan is not only irresponsible, but dangerous, given the impact it would have on multiple towns throughout Southeastern Connecticut,” she told the committee.

Olde Mistick Village, a neighbor to Mystic Aquarium, is one of the tourist attractions that lies in the path of the proposed new line.

"We’ve been a top five taxpayers in Stonington for the last 45 years," said owner Chris Regan. "And they want to come in and take it from us? It’s insane!"

He’s organizing a rally in Mystic this weekend, to protest the plan.