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DOT Planning How To Minimize High-Speed Train Noise

By DON STACOM

July 30, 2010

HARTFORD The plan for a massive expansion of passenger train service in New England would benefit commuters, businesses and the environment, but it could bring unwelcome noise to homeowners along the route, according to a new report.

The impact would be especially strong on densely developed communities along the tracks between New Haven and Springfield, the consultants' report said.

That's because there would be more rumbling diesel locomotives and blaring whistles near grade crossings. But state transportation planners said Friday that they'll soon be studying exactly where noise would be worst and how to eliminate or minimize it.

"We're planning how best to address that," said Judd Everhart, spokesman for the state transportation department.

"We're going to be doing a detailed environmental assessment within the next 12 months," said Tom Maziarz, a senior planner with the DOT. "We're talking about going from six trains a day to 25, and that will raise concerns of more noise impact."

Transportation planners from Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont expect to develop strategies for dealing with increased noise along the 550 miles of tracks envisioned as a high-speed rail network linking Boston, New York and Montreal. The 62-mile Springfield to New Haven line is a key segment of that network, and Connecticut is also planning to use the same tracks for a lower-speed, high-frequency commuter train service.

The DOT this week released a new 120-page report that will be submitted to federal authorities as part of Connecticut's bid for $220 million in construction aid. The report concludes that the service would aid businesses, commuters and the environment.

"Overall, the project will have numerous beneficial effects. It will benefit air quality, traffic and transportation (both air and vehicular travel), socioeconomic conditions, and quality of life for communities and New England as a whole," according to a draft of the consultants' report for the Federal Railroad Administration.

Connecticut expects it will cost about $1 billion to fully develop the Springfield-to-New Haven line, but acknowledges that the high-speed component would take longer to develop than the commuter service.

Full high-speed service, with trains reaching 110 mph at various points along the route, would require costly electrification of the entire line, which isn't part of the $480 million in improvements that the DOT wants to make over the next several years.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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