High-Speed Trains Could Come To State By 2030 — And Keep Going
Controversial Long-Term Amtrak Plan Would Bypass Shoreline Cities
By DON STACOM
August 19, 2012
HARTFORD —— Amtrak's long-term proposal to build a staggeringly expensive rail line along an entirely new route diagonally across Connecticut has caught the attention of top state officials.
And not in a good way.
Amtrak's 30-year "NextGen High-Speed Rail Alignment" would send Boston-to-Washington express trains hurtling at 220 mph through Connecticut without stopping anywhere in the state.
Its second-tier express service would offer just three Connecticut stops: Hartford, Waterbury and Danbury.
In response, state leaders are trying to push back without alienating the federal officials who control the money that Connecticut needs to maintain its existing rail lines.
When Amtrak first put forward the idea two years ago, some Connecticut legislators quietly wrote it off as pie-in-the-sky federal fantasy. After all, it would require plowing new twin rail lines through the densely developed region from Danbury to Waterbury, then parallel to the I-84 corridor into Hartford before shooting eastward to Providence.
But staffers and consultants from the Federal Railway Administration and the federal transportation department are traveling the Northeast this month to show off updated plans in every major market from Washington to Boston. Gov.Dannel P. Malloygave the tour enough credibility to take time out from his schedule on primary night to catch the Connecticut stop.
"Here in Connecticut, access to rail has been critical and essential to our growth," Malloy said, urging the railway administration and Amtrak to pump money into the existing infrastructure.
Overall, Amtrak estimates it would spend $115 billion to dramatically reduce the travel times between Boston, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
By 2040, the railroad says, the New York to Philadelphia trip would be down to under 40 minutes. Boston to New York, currently a 214-minute journey, could be done by 220 mph trains in 94 minutes, Amtrak says.
Amtrak would leave in place the 457-mile Northeast Corridor route, which in Connecticut runs mostly along the shoreline and shares the same railbed with Metro-North's commuter rail system.
State. Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, told the railway administration last week that the first priority should be improving the signals, catenaries (overhead lines) and tracks of the New Haven line. High-speed rail might boost the region's economy dramatically sometime in the future, but Metro-North's 39 million passenger trips a year are doing that already, she said.
"There is nothing speculative about Metro-North. The reasoning is not 'build it, and they will come.' Instead, it's 'get on with it already, because they are here — and if you don't, they just might not stay.' "
Amtrak's long-term plans include some improvements for the shoreline route and possibly for the New Haven to Springfield line, but they're dwarfed by the prospect of blazing a new route from Boston to D.C.
Amtrak envisions bullet trains making just four stops: Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington. More traditional express trains on the new route would speed through suburbs, old mill towns, rural villages, forests and the center of Greater Hartford, with stops only in Danbury, Waterbury and Hartford.
Amtrak is accepting public comment about its plan. Details of the proposal are here: http://www.amtrak.com/ccurl/453/325/Amtrak-Vision-for-the-Northeast-Corridor.pdf
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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