As a partner and observer of the Charlestown Town Council for the last five months, I have to say that they have handled the challenge of NEC Future remarkably well... inclusive, transparent, professional, effective. ... See MoreSee Less
Charlestown Getting Ready for the Record of Decision
The Charlestown Town Council has prepared the Town for any outcome. At their May meeting they took the step of officially endorsing some of the most important opposition documents.
"Although a lot of the public thinks we won, it was only round one of this match against the bypass. We are being vigilant on behalf of the residents of the town to...
For the last few months, we've been chatting with Ryan Caron King, Heather Brandon, and Cassandra Basler for WNPR's New England News Collaborative... this is the first of a series of pieces on the public and big infrastructure projects in New England. King and Brandon discuss I-84 in Hartford and I-95 in Connecticut and Rhode Island... It aired today on WNPR @ 2, but you can read the text and listen to the podcast below... nenc.news/podcast/episode-41-public-comment/... See MoreSee Less
This week, we find out what a Reveal/APM Reports investigation tells us about police de-escalation training in New England, and visit police in New Hampshire who are reaching out to children who've been traumatized by witnessing crime. We go inside the public input process in two big regional transp...
The latest on an attempt to tear down two structures purchased in the historic district of New London. We urge you to sign the petition, and show public support for preservation prior to the Wednesday, July 5th State Historic Preservation Council meeting in Hartford. The Council will make a determination as to whether to forward this matter to the State Attorney General to injunct demolition under the State Environmental Protection Act.
CT Trust and SECoast not content to just wait, wait. wait for the release of the ROD. Where can pressure continue to be applied? We think Amtrak, as inheritors of the Federal Railroad Administration's tone-dead NEC Future planning process for high-speed rail in coastal CT and RI, needs to understand our concerns.
Hope is not a strategy. Press the point.
So it could be years?
“There is significant concern that the Federal Railroad Administration intends to push through public opposition to the New Rochelle, N.Y. to Greens Farms bypass through Fairfield County" ... See MoreSee Less
NORWALK — With a major decision looming, preservationists are stepping up their efforts to get the Federal Railroad Administration to rethink its proposed high-speed rail route through Connecticut. “There is significant concern that the Federal Railroad Administration intends to push through public…
From today's column by David Collins, regarding our battle to save 130 Bank Street: "The Landmarks campaign to save Union Station awakened New London to the architectural treasures that were being lost, and drove home the understanding that the city's charm and grace lies not with any single historical building but in the integrity of all of them together. It is what put the downtown on the nation...
Since Senator Blumenthal wrote the Federal Railroad Administration on April 12, in opposition to NEC Future plans to expand the rail footprint between Guilford and Branford from two to four tracks, there has been a small flurry letter from the region expressing concerns about the plan. The latest letter is from Connecticut State Senator Ted Kennedy Jr. and State Rep. Sean Scanlon. You can read it here: secoast.org/2017/04/20/state-sen-ted-kennedy-jr-and-state-rep-sean-scanlon-request-fra-meeting-on-branford-to-guilford-doubletracking/ ... See MoreSee Less
There's no point in protecting communities from the impacts of high-speed rail, if we let them be taken down, bit by bit, in other ways... I'd encourage you to sign the petition below, to support preservation in the remarkably intact central section of New London. This is a property which can and should be rehabilitated and repurposed. ... See MoreSee Less
Yet another voice of concern on the proposed NEC Future expansion of rail between Branford and Guilford stations in Connecticut.
Connecticut State Rep. Lonnie Reed has written to the Federal Railroad Administration to oppose plans to add two extra rails to the existing footprint, and to reach out to impacted residents, who only recently became aware of the plans.
As the vice chair of the Connecticut Legislature's Shoreline Preservation Taskforce, Reed questioned the wisdom of adding infrastructure along this stretch of vulnerable coastline.
Here is a copy of our latest press release on high-speed rail issued by the Connecticut Trust
Press Release - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
With Final Decision on NEC Future Near, Connecticut Trust Pushes CT DOT for Clear Statement on Elimination of Rail Bypasses
Hamden, CT -- (April 18) -- With just weeks remaining before the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) completes a five-year NEC Future planning process, finalizing a ‘once-in-a-generation’ blueprint for rail travel and investment along the Northeast Corridor, advocates of historic, cultural and environmental resources in Connecticut are responding warily to recent statements from Connecticut DOT and FRA officials.
“Connecticut DOT now refers to ‘aspirational recommendations’ for the high-speed rail corridor in Connecticut,” noted Daniel Mackay, Executive Director of the Connecticut Trust. “As this process nears completion, it is critical that the public and municipal officials realize that any language in the Record of Decision which references proposed bypasses in New London and Fairfield counties, as well as in Rhode Island, leaves the door open for these projects in the next stages of planning. It is imperative that FRA and Connecticut DOT permanently bar the door against these destructive bypass proposals.”
The Trust released a copy of a February 10 email to Richard Andreski, Bureau Chief for Public Transportation, calling for state and federal agencies to remove all references to the proposed Old Saybrook to Kenyon (RI) from the forthcoming NEC Future Record of Decision. The Trust also asked for a commitment from both FRA and CT DOT that the Old Saybrook to Kenyon bypass not be reconsidered or reintroduced as planning for NEC Future moves forward. The Trust further warned that the proposed New Rochelle (NY) to Greens Farms bypass in Fairfield County requires a separate Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which should only be amended to NEC Future if warranted following more careful consideration.
In an April 12 letter to FRA Acting Administrator Patrick Warren, Senator Richard Blumenthal drew attention to fresh public concerns regarding previously-overlooked plans by FRA to double to four tracks the existing rail footprint between Branford and Guilford, east of New Haven. Senator Richard Blumenthal urged the agency to “engage in thorough discussions and dialogue” with impacted residents, warning that “it is imperative that these concerns be addressed immediately” given the expected release of the NEC Future Record of Decision.
Following a pattern repeated in other communities in Connecticut and Rhode Island, the proposed Branford to Guilford rail expansion came to the attention of residents in the region, only after the release of finalized maps of the FRA’s ‘Preferred Route’ on December 16, 2016. In recent weeks, six preservation and environmental groups have written to the FRA to express concern, including the Branford Historical Society, Branford Land Trust, Stony Creek Association, Guilford Preservation Alliance, Guilford Land Conservation Trust, and Hyland House.
Despite these concerns, Gregory Stroud, Director of Special Projects at the Connecticut Trust, made clear that he is hopeful for a positive outcome after nearly sixteen months of advocacy on the issue. “On the merits, we believe we’ve made a compelling case that FRA delivered a terrifically flawed plan, with too many impacts, and too few benefits for Connecticut.” Stroud pointed to strong bipartisan support from representatives at the local, state, and federal levels, in both Rhode Island and Connecticut, for dropping planned bypasses, and for investments in the existing Northeast Corridor.
I'm a little shy to post, but here's the feature in the Connecticut Mirror this morning, and a little more detail on the fate of the bypass, from a reporter who has the led the coverage on this story, nationwide, for well over a year. Radelat is based in Washington, D.C.
Absolutely lovely. It's the people behind the protest that make a compelling story so no reason to be shy.
Making sense of what went wrong for the FRA... here's one idea from a 2012 report on "Expediting the Environmental Review Process" by the RPA. In fact, Rebecca Reyes-Alicea was a participant...
"If local controversies about a project develop and are not addressed in the planning phases, the public participation steps during the NEPA process are often the times when they will surface, delaying a project or forcing it to be redesigned. Thus, the drafting of the EIS tends to be the time when stakeholders come together and realize that they do not agree with some aspect of the project, whether it is the purpose, design, location, environmental impacts, mitigation measures, cost, or some other considerations. In this type of case, the delay is due to a failure to foster agreement during the project planning phases before the NEPA process began. Building consensus during the pre-NEPA planning phase requires greater investments of financial and administrative resources in advance, but tends to save time and money in the long-term by helping avoid unnecessary delays during the EIS or environmental assessment process and achieves greater benefits by delivering the project faster."
In the case of NEC Future, that would require truly reaching out to the most impacted communities early in the process. It's not as though the outcry in coastal Connecticut and southern Rhode Island should have come as any surprise. ... See MoreSee Less
WASHINGTON — A rebellion that began in Old Lyme and has spread along coastal Connecticut is pressing the federal government to make big changes in an ambitious plan to bring high-speed rail to the Northeast, and to turn the proposal into merely “aspirational” recommendations.
Forwarding-thinking preservationism...Pleased to share that our new #solarpanels went “live” today, and are generating renewable energy for Connecticut’s power grid! Sincere thanks to Ben Baker of Star Power LLC of Branford and Sunlight Solar Energy of New Haven for their work to make our work more sustainable. ... See MoreSee Less
No single community between New York City and Providence has been more active or effective in opposition to the rail bypass than Charlestown, RI, where their vigorous public and local-government efforts are paying dividends for every town along the bypass.
We talked with the Southern Rhode Island community on Thursday night for what stretched into 3 hours of presentations and Q&A... Thank you, Ruth Platner, Tom Gentz, Ken Payne, Julie Carroccia, Virginia Lee, Bill and Kim Coulter, Cliff Vanover. And thank you State Rep. Blake Filippi for your consistent engagement and support.
Join us this Thursday: Update and Discussion of Federal Railroad Administration Plan at Kettle Pond
When: Thursday, March 30 at 7PM
Where: Kettle Pond Visitor Center, 50 Bend Rd., Charlestown
What: Status Update and Discussion on "Old Saybrook to Kenyon Bypass"
Our guest speaker is Gregory Stroud, Ph.D. Greg is Director of Special Projects at the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation. Greg...
Just sent out by the Federal Railroad Administration (the gears are turning...)
Update on the NEC FUTURE Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement
On December 16, 2016, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) released the Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for NEC FUTURE, the FRA's comprehensive planning effort for the Northeast Corridor (NEC) rail line from Washington, D.C., to Boston, MA. The Tier 1 Final EIS includes a Preferred Alternative, the FRA's recommended plan for growing passenger rail service on the NEC to accommodate future demand and maintain the economic competitiveness and vitality of the Northeast.
The FRA received over 1,000 letters to date regarding the Tier 1 Final EIS. The purpose of this statement is to address the primary themes of these comments while the FRA prepares the Record of Decision (ROD).
Requests for a Longer Waiting Period
A waiting period prior to the issuance of a ROD as required by the Council on Environmental Quality's regulations implementing the National Environmental Policy Act, ended on January 31, 2017. Many letters requested that the FRA defer issuing the ROD to allow additional time for the public to provide feedback. The FRA values the public feedback on the Tier 1 Final EIS and Preferred Alternative received thus far. Given the interest in NEC FUTURE, the FRA will continue to consider feedback received, to the extent practicable, up to the issuance of the ROD.
The FRA held public hearings during the public comment period on the Tier 1 Draft EIS, including in each of the eight states and the District of Columbia that are part of the NEC FUTURE Study Area. The FRA provided information about the Preferred Alternative and the Tier 1 Final EIS by holding public open houses in Springfield, MA, and Baltimore, MD, on January 25 and February 1 respectively, as well as two virtual meetings via webinar on February 13 and 16. The public meeting process has now concluded.
Public feedback received to date ranges from strong support for long-term growth in passenger rail service across the NEC to concerns about the impacts of proposed infrastructure investments, particularly those associated with new segments. The FRA continues to deliberate on how best to address the passenger rail needs of the region while being responsive to the feedback received.
Record of Decision
Through NEC FUTURE, the FRA is establishing a comprehensive plan that will help prioritize future investment in the NEC, and will support essential commuter and intercity services that benefit hundreds of communities in the region. NEC FUTURE improvements would enable improved and expanded train service along the NEC from Washington, D.C., to Boston.
Through the Tier 1 EIS process, FRA identified the need to reliably maintain and improve existing service to meet growth in ridership, and to address resiliency, performance, and capacity constraints along the NEC. Site-specific decisions about infrastructure improvements along the NEC will only be made after planning studies and Tier 2 environmental reviews that evaluate the specific details and location of individual projects (see FAQs for more information on Tier 2 environmental reviews and next steps). The FRA is committed to working with the states, railroads, and communities across the NEC to plan and advance the rail improvements necessary to grow the northeast region of the United States.
Got the same form letter emailed to me an hour ago as well. Whole lot of nothing we didn't already know if you ask me
There's some things to note: 1) After many deadlines and delays, still no timeline for a Record of Decision. Does this mean CT and RI opposition are forcing a change in plans? 2) FRA still soliciting/reviewing feedback; more time for RI and CT to weigh in with continued nuance and details. 3) Indication of over 1000 letters received. Can we presume most are negative, most are from CT and RI? Let's keep them coming. 4) Clear statement that public meeting component is over - guess FRA is never going to hold a meaningful Q+A with coastal community public in New London, Middlesex or Fairfield Counties, or RI. 5) Does - finally?! -
acknowledge concerns about new segment impacts. This may be a first for an FRA public communication.
Who do they get to write these??
I am over educated and have little clue what that means. PM u later GS. Thanks for all you do.
This sounds like a lot of words that sound good together with no meaning or answers.
The Charlestown Citizens Alliance, our good friends and partners on the high-speed rail issue, will be hosting a meeting on the issue of high-speed rail in Charlestown, RI, on March 30. Gregory Stroud, Director of Special Projects at the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, and SECoast founder, will be on-hand to speak on the issue... come one come all! ... See MoreSee Less
Join us this Thursday: Update and Discussion of Federal Railroad Administration Plan at Kettle Pond
When: Thursday, March 30 at 7PM
Where: Kettle Pond Visitor Center, 50 Bend Rd., Charlestown
What: Status Update and Discussion on "Old Saybrook to Kenyon Bypass"
Our guest speaker is Gregory Stroud, Ph.D. Greg is Director of Special Projects at the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation. Greg...
A recent Congressional Management Foundation study finds that direct constituent interactions “have more influence on lawmakers’ decisions than other advocacy strategies.”
“The same study notes that 79% of the Congressional staff surveyed believe that personal stories from constituents related to a bill or issue are helpful in shaping their opinions on issues. Personal, local, and direct constituent grassroots advocacy contact towards members of Congress and staff have been proven to be effective time and time again.” ... See MoreSee Less
Did you know that NEC Future includes plans for doubling track and capacity between Branford Station and Guilford Station?
It's an area of beautiful marshes, stone ledges and houses dating back to the early 18th century. The National Register Route 146 Historic district is bounded by the current right of way, and directly threatened by additions to the existing track.
The current plans include only cursory details and schematic maps, so it's hard to be sure what exactly the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has in mind.
Until we have a better understanding of the impacts and need, the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation and SECoast have asked the FRA to unbundle and remove the double-tracking from Branford to Guilford from the coming NEC Future Record of Decision.
Do you have friends in the Guilford-Branford area? I'd strongly encourage you to share this piece, and start asking questions. As things stand, we believe that this portion of track will be included in the final blueprint, so there is much to do and very little time. ... See MoreSee Less
if you think the maps of Kenyon to Old Saybrook are bad, take a look at the map of the Branford to Guilford!
There is no reason for this at all!
No different than the high speed rail job I'm working on from new haven to Springfield. Went from one line to two.its the wave of the future
Does proposed expansion fall within the existing right of way?
Pardon our progress !
Hopefully this can be worked out. In the interest of better transportation it's a must to improve the train service to Shoreline communities,as we are all depending upon tourism as a source of income. This is a reality. Better train service always improves the area that it serves. Now the question is how to not infringe too drastically upon the environment and historical properties.
I can understand not continuing the greenway trail thru Guilford but this doesn't look like it will hurt anyone
A resounding NO. Unnessary
Happy to see Old Lyme at the forefront, our leadership pays attention, and our citizens know how to organize.
Catherine Hewitt writes on a recent visit by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to Charlestown.
Certainly, it's important to provide the FRA with the best possible data on concerns and impacts along the proposed route, but keep in mind that most or all of this data will only be considered at Tier 2.
The FRA has consistently refused to open up meetings to the public, as we have seen also in Old Lyme, but I have to commend the leaders in Charlestown for their efforts to provide transparency and to include competent representatives from environmental and other organizations. ... See MoreSee Less
Despite what you might have heard, don't hold your breath on the release of the Record of Decision... nothing is certain, but based on two good sources, I'd expect several more weeks, at least... ... See MoreSee Less
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is urging the Federal Railroad Administration to focus on overdue investments needed to ensure the Northeast rail corridor is in a state of good repair and can handle ridership for the next 10-to-15 years.
. As recently as December, most of the support for the Kenyon to Old Saybrook Bypass was in Providence, but that's changing, with the fierce opposition centered around Charlestown, RI, and with growing frustration among Rhode Island's lawmakers with the lack of detail and answers from the Federal Ra...
I'm sure there are many people eager to see the FRA's Record of Decision. Does anyone know the release date?
With the entire corridor from Greenwich to Guilford to Old Lyme to Mystic to New London to Stonington to Charlestown asking questions and up-in-arms, the FRA falls oddly silent... are they simply not commenting to the press, or is no one bothering to ask anymore? ... See MoreSee Less
In a letter to the FRA, Malloy said Connecticut will support the federal agency’s impending Record of Decision concerning NEC Future — a long-term, comprehensive investment plan for the 450-mile rail line between Boston and Washington, D.C. — provided the decision includes specific improvement, elim...
Interesting piece by Catherine Hewitt, giving more of the Rhode Island angle... the lack of responsiveness from the FRA is turning potential allies of the planning into opponents. No one wants to sign a blank check, and that's basically what the FRA is asking... ... See MoreSee Less
The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation thanks Governor Malloy for a clear and timely statement calling for the elimination of nearly 80 miles of new right of way through numerous coastal communities,” said Daniel Mackay, Executive Director of the Connecticut Trust. “We appreciate that the governor has adopted an approach for investing in the Northeast Corridor while respecting the un...
Breaking news: Malloy opposes inclusion of new rail corridor -- Kenyon to Old Saybrook and New Rochelle to Greens Farms -- in a detailed last-minute public comment.
I'd strongly encourage you to read the letter (link at bottom)
March 2, 2017
Rebecca Reyes-Alicia NEC FUTURE Federal Railroad Administration One Bowling Green, Suite 429 New York, NY 10004 RE: NEC Future Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement
Dear Ms. Reyes-Alicia:
Connecticut commends the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on the NEC Future program. It has provided a process for considering a long-overdue vision for the Northeast Corridor (NEC). More importantly, NEC Future has set the stage for an investment program that is essential to reverse decades of underinvestment in the corridor and advance significant infrastructure improvements. We see the issuance of the Record of Decision (ROD) as a critical next step to advance sorely needed investments on the NEC and to expedite their implementation. We recommend that the ROD be issued as soon as possible.
Connecticut's support of the Record of Decision is conditioned on the premise that it will:
Focus principally on investments that will achieve a State of Good Repair to ensure continuation of existing services and handle the projected ridership demand for the next 10-15 years. Connecticut has been clear that the investments in the State-of-Good Repair are the necessary foundation for any longer-term high speed rail investment, and will deliver the most costeffective outcomes.
Clearly identify specific projects that are empowered to advance in the No Action and Universal First Phase investments which were identified in Chapter 10 in the FEIS. These projects, such as replacement of aging tunnels and bridges, have broad support among all the NEC stakeholders and their advancement must not await the completion of a Service Development Plan (SDP).
Incorporate specific references and recommendations regarding NEC connecting corridors.
Articulate a simplified NEPA process which prioritizes and expedites projects based on their characteristics, potential impacts, costs, etc., including identifying projects eligible for
Categorical Exclusions and Environmental Assessments that might result in Findings of No Significant Impacts (FONSls), and limiting the need for Environmental Impact Statements/Records of Decision.
Eliminate any specific "representative alternative alignments" along the NEC. Portions of the corridor which require evaluation of alternative investments and alignments to address capacity, speed, or which have other vulnerabilities should be identified without proposing specific options.
Be adopted by all appropriate U. S. Department of Transportation Agencies, not just the FRA. There must be a clear path forward that does not require the states and operators to navigate and negotiate among the federal agencies to gain project approvals.
Connecticut also makes the following recommendations regarding the Tier 1 Preferred Alternative and the process identified in the FEIS for advancing the Alternative:
While we support investments in the No Action and Universal First Phase projects, we understand the long range improvements are aspirational and will have commensurate impacts that remain undefined at this time, and may or may not be resolved.
The longer term opportunities require close coordination with respective states and operators through a more detailed project level transportation and environmental planning and review process. As noted above, this process should be as consistent, simplified and expedited as possible.
The SDP process may be necessary for the longer term, but should be preceded by additional analyses. First, it is critical to assess the resource, staging, operational and construction requirements to implement the proposed capital investment program. This information is critical to support a future SDP activity. Second, evaluation of the economic impacts and benefit/cost evaluations should be performed for the core projects as well as the aspirational projects to also inform a SDP activity.
The SDP process should be led by the NEC Commission. It is necessary for all states and rail operators to be engaged in the SDP along with AMTRAK, FRA and FTA. The Commission must be resourced accordingly to handle such a task.
The SDP should include an extensive outreach plan that incorporates stakeholder and public input into any and all of the SDP recommendations. This plan should include towns, cities and other jurisdictions impacted by potential investments.
Since states and operating agencies will be burdened with funding investments, they must have the authority for approving any project investments.
The ultimate vision for a more robust NEC must be accompanied by a commitment by the Federal government to cover a significant portion of the estimated capital costs.
There are state-specific issues within the FEIS that Connecticut raises for action:
Connecticut appreciates the FRA decision to incorporate the Hartford/Springfield Line into the Preferred Alternative based on feedback from stakeholders and the public. We support the recommendation for additional track between Hartford and Springfield. We recommend that the ROD specifically include a recommendation to advance the FRA-funded NNEIRI study that identified critical investments beyond Springfield, MA north to Vermont and Canada and east to Boston via the inland route. Connecticut asks that the ROD be silent on electrification of this corridor and potential extensions north and east, deferring those evaluations to future Tier 2 EIS initiatives that would be required before recommending investments in electrification and/or extensions.
The FEIS recommends an in-kind replacement of the Hartford Viaduct in downtown Hartford for the Hartford/Springfield Line. As FRA knows, Connecticut is currently conducting an EIS for the replacement of the Hartford 1-84 highway viaduct which is also evaluating realignment of the Hartford Line along a new right-of-way with a new Hartford station. The ROD should reference the 1-84 viaduct EIS process regarding the future of the existing rail viaduct.
The FEIS's representative corridor stage for natural resource and environmental impacts should defer to the Tier 2 EIS for a more detailed evaluation of the environmental impacts entailed in the upgrade and expansion of NEC facilities. Any individual Tier 2 actions will involve more specific review by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection as part of the environmental permit requirements that will arise at the Tier 2 stage.
The FEIS includes Urepresentative alternative alignments" which have potentially unacceptable physical, historic, environmental and community impacts without significant incremental benefit-cost outcomes, specifically between the Hell Gate Line and Greens Farms and between Old Saybrook and Kenyon, RI. Since any infrastructure alternatives must follow detailed Tier 2 methodologies, Connecticut asks FRA to state in the ROD that future capacity and infrastructure alternatives in those two segments will require the full consent of Connecticut through appropriate Tier 2 alternatives evaluations and recommendations. No specific alignments off of the existing Connecticut NEC right of way should appear in the ROD. Connecticut elected officials and citizens have been very clear about this throughout the EIS process.
The FEIS states, "Construction of new parallel segments of track provides the opportunity to relocate existing trains to new tracks before beginning work on upgrades to the existing NEC. Such phasing of construction could provide capital cost efficiencies and reduce impacts." There is no analytical basis for this conclusion, since no alternatives have actually been studied.
The FEIS states, "In the ROD, the FRA may define the service and performance aspects of the Selected Alternative as a starting point for subsequent Tier 2 project studies. It is the FRA's intent to define these characteristics in such a way as to set standards for use in developing alternatives in Tier 2 project studies." It is unacceptable for FRA to predetermine service and performance characteristics unilaterally and without prior consultation and agreement with all partners and stakeholders. Connecticut will have direct participation in any Tier 2 projects in this state and will reserve judgements about ultimate performance outcomes and service standards for the appropriate Tier 2 evaluations and recommendations. The FRA's work has spurred a broad public conversation on the future of this important national transportation asset. The ROD must now conclude with a clear set of near and long-term recommendations and next steps that enable immediate investment. There must be no ambiguity in what comes next.
Thank you for the opportunity to provide our comments on the NEC Future Tier 1 FEIS and the Record of Decision. I look forward to your response.
In addition, a very similar letter was signed also by all the state DOTs along the corridor... this is very significant
Betsy Merritt, Deputy General Counsel for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, submitted the following public comment to the Federal Railroad Administration. Merritt "has been responsible for the National Trust's legal advocacy program for the past 25 years ... having represented the National Trust in nearly 200 cases in state and federal courts, including two dozen transportation cases."
March 1, 2017
NEC FUTURE U.S. DOT Federal Railroad Administration One Bowling Green, Suite 429 New York, NY 10004 via Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Re: Northeast Corridor NEC Future Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement
Dear Federal Railroad Administration and NEC Future Project Team:
On behalf of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, this letter serves as a comment on the Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Northeast Corridor NEC Future project. While some areas of the proposed project would have a minimal adverse effect on historic resources, the portion of the project along the coast of Connecticut and Rhode Island would be devastating to historic communities under the preferred alternative, which proposes 79 miles of rail corridor on new alignment just within Connecticut–29 miles in the New Rochelle to Greens Farms Bypass, and 50 miles in the Old Saybrook to Kenyon Bypass, much of which would be elevated on aerial structures. Historic communities such as Old Lyme in Connecticut, and Charlestown in Rhode Island, would be especially hard hit. In these historic communities, the opposition to the preferred alternative—by local governments, by elected officials at all levels, and by the public at large—has been quite extraordinary.
As you know, the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation has submitted detailed comments on these harmful impacts, including a thorough discussion of the legal and analytical flaws of the Tier 1 FEIS. The National Trust strongly endorses the comments of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation.
In addition, we wish to emphasize that, in our view, the proposed project fails to comply with Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act. Section 4(f) prohibits the use of historic properties and park land for transportation projects unless there is no feasible and prudent alternative to doing so, and the project incorporates “all possible planning to minimize harm.” 49 U.S.C. § 303(c). As the FEIS points out, a large number of Section 4(f) resources are located within and immediately adjacent to the corridor. However, the information in the FEIS regarding cultural resources and historic properties does not effectively convey the nature and magnitude of the potential adverse impacts to those resources.
The FEIS assumes that Section 4(f) compliance will occur much later in the process, during the Tier 2 review. However, the FEIS acknowledges that the agency must ensure that opportunities to avoid and minimize harm to historic resources, as required by Section 4(f), “have not been precluded by decisions made at the Tier 1 stage.” FEIS at 7.16-13 (emphasis added); cf. 23 C.F.R. § 774.7(e)(1). We believe that compliance with Section 4(f) will indeed be precluded, unless this portion of the project is removed from the Tier 1 Record of Decision. It is simply not possible for the agency to make any meaningful determination that there is no feasible and prudent alternative to the use of historic resources protected by Section 4(f). See Corridor H Alternatives, Inc. v. Slater, 166 F.3d 368 (D.C. Cir. 1999).
In sum, we urge the Federal Railroad Administration to remove from its Tier 1 Record of Decision the portions of the project in Connecticut and Rhode Island that involve bypasses on new alignment and other draconian impacts on historic resources. Instead, the agency should conduct more detailed reviews to develop feasible and prudent alternatives that would avoid and minimize harm to these resources.
Thank you for considering the comments of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Sincerely, Elizabeth S. Merritt Deputy General Counsel
cc: Laura Shick, Federal Preservation Officer, Federal Railroad Administration
Amishi Castelli, Environmental Protection Specialist, Federal Railroad Administration
Chris Wilson, Charlene Vaughn, and Reid Nelson, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation
Kristina Newman-Scott, Connecticut State Historic Preservation Officer
Daniel Mackay and Gregory Stroud, Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation
The Rhode Island Senate Committee on Finance had a presentation and question and answer session with Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Officials on February 28. That video is now available. The interview with FRA officials took place via a webinar format. The FRA officials were not on site in th...
For a savings of 1/2 hour on the DC to Boston commute
SAVE all the friggin money ! 😡
The "resisters of Old Lyme" - Love it!!!
Annie's right. Time saved 20-30 minutes of a 10 hour plus ride. Resist!
We want improved infrastructure and access to transportation, the proposed rail between NYC and Boston does neither for towns along the shoreline
Resist this stupid plan that will ruin not only Old Lyme but Mystic Village and the Aquarium and will no longer stop in New London. All this, to say nothing of all the $ spent, to save a half hour off the commute!
I oppose this plan as well, but it was well in the works LONG BEFORE TRUMP was elected... Check the facts! This has nothing to do with TRUMP
Don Stacom has a good piece in the Hartford Courant...
"Opposition to the proposed Amtrak bypass through southeastern Connecticut is more than bipartisan: It has become multi-partisan.
A recent statement warning that bullet-train tracks would erode New London's tax base and damage historic sites was co-signed by the leaders of New London's Republican, Democratic and Green parties.
"It is rare that political parties reach consensus on an issue, but on this we are united," says their letter to federal railroad regulators.
For the past year and a half, the Amtrak bypass idea has been creating uncommon alliances throughout the region. Business leaders stand alongside environmentalists in fighting it, and politically conservative and liberal homeowners alike are pressing regulators to scuttle the plan." ... See MoreSee Less
A great turnout and a lively Q&A in New London last night. Thanks for inviting us.Crowd listens to Greg Stroud of SECoast and CT Trust at last night's Annual Meeting at The Social. #Preservation #NewLondonLandmarks ... See MoreSee Less
Breaking News: Blumenthal and Courtney call for dropping 79 miles of new rail corridor from NEC Future Planning.
For Immediate Release: February 28, 2017 Contact: Elizabeth Benton (Blumenthal) 860-729-3589 Tim Brown (Courtney) 202-225-2076
BLUMENTHAL, COURTNEY REITERATE OPPOSITION TO PROPOSED OLD LYME RAIL BYPASS IN NEC FUTURE COMMENTS
(Hartford, CT)-- Today, U.S. Senator Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Representative Joe Courtney (D-2) sent a letter to Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Acting Administrator Patrick Warren with formal comments regarding the FRA’s Northeast rail plan, NEC FUTURE. The FRA could finalize the NEC future plan as soon as March 1.
“We are committed to rebuilding the corridor, and while the FRA’s plan holds great promise for the state of Connecticut, it also creates major consternation among several communities across our state. As champions for our constituents – and for robust rail service – we write in strong support of the positive elements but in staunch opposition to several impractical and ill-conceived ideas in your agency’s proposal,” Blumenthal and Courtney write in the letter.
Blumenthal and Courtney have attended and held various forums related to the NEC FUTURE plan and know firsthand the public outcry in response to several of the FRA’s proposals. The letter encourages FRA to carefully consider the many thoughtful comments provided by Connecticut residents in response to the NEC FUTURE plan and ensure that they are heeded and incorporated into any final rebuilding plan.
Full letter is here and below:
Dear Acting Administrator Warren:
The rail network from Washington, DC to Boston is an immensely important contributor to our national economy and a vital part of the daily lives of countless numbers of our constituents. Much of the network was built over a century ago, and it now withers in disrepair as it strains and struggles to support the growing population that depends upon it. We appreciate the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) effort to evaluate ways of rebuilding the rail infrastructure as outlined in a recently unveiled proposal from the FRA’s NEC FUTURE team. We are committed to rebuilding the corridor, and while the FRA’s plan holds great promise for the state of Connecticut, it also creates major consternation among several communities across our state. As champions for our constituents – and for robust rail service – we write in strong support of the positive elements but in staunch opposition to several impractical and ill-conceived ideas in your agency’s proposal. We also write to urge you to carefully consider the many thoughtful comments provided by Connecticut residents in response to the NEC FUTURE plan and ensure that they are heeded and incorporated into any final rebuilding plan your agency selects.
This 457-mile transportation spine is known commonly as the Northeast Corridor, and it allows millions of Americans to get to work and school and access other vital opportunities. We need to plan and prepare for the future and bring the Northeast Corridor into the twenty-first century, rebuilding the rail network so it can meet the demands of today and tomorrow. In December 2016, the FRA’s NEC FUTURE office unveiled its preferred plan for a revitalized network. In technical terms, the FRA and NEC FUTURE officials have put forward a plan in the form of a Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) that lays out what is formally considered its Preferred Alternative of service changes between Washington, DC and Boston. The FRA is now accepting comments on the Preferred Alternative before finalizing the FEIS in the form of a Selected Alternative in a Record of Decision as soon as next month. The FRA would then use that document to create a service development plan later this year that moves the Selected Alternative closer to reality. We understand the FRA cautions that any final decision about service changes and realigned routes will be made at the state and local levels. Still, the Selected Alternative would be the product of an eight-year, $40 million undertaking by your agency, and it could hold significant sway with federal, state and local officials for decades to come. It is imperative that any Selected Alternative reflect that reality and contain only proposals that are worthy of further consideration, excluding disconcerting concepts that will hang like a cloud over communities.
One idea that should remain prominently in any Selected Alternative is the FRA’s vision for robust enhancements to the Hartford Line. The line is currently under development from New Haven, Connecticut through Hartford to Springfield, Massachusetts. The Preferred Alternative correctly recognizes the importance of the investments now underway and the transformative, game-changing effect they will have throughout New England. The Preferred Alternative proposes even greater long-term enhancements to this portion of rail line, leveraging the investments that have already been made, proposing the addition of more tracks and technology – including electrification of the track to support non-diesel trains, further ensuring safe, reliable, high-speed rail through Connecticut’s central spine. This vision would improve opportunities for access to New York City and Boston and improve connectivity to Bradley International Airport as well as other transportation hubs throughout New England. This vision would also help address many of the problems the NEC FUTURE effort hopes to tackle, including greater resiliency in the face of climate change and better access to jobs, housing, and economic opportunities.
Two ideas that should be scrapped in any Selected Alternative include a proposal in southeastern Connecticut that has become known as the Kenyon bypass and a separate proposal in Fairfield County in southwestern Connecticut to build two new tracks through several dense communities.
The first misguided idea, the Kenyon bypass, would split rail off from the current line at Old Saybrook, establishing a new alternative route that plows through many communities before rejoining the current route just west of Kingston, Rhode Island. If constructed in a trench, as a tunnel, as an aerial structure or as a mix of all three, the bypass would cause massive disturbance to the lives and livelihoods of tens of thousands of residents who now live in the proposed route’s path. It would decimate the unique charm and historic character of several centuries-old towns like Old Lyme. It would disrupt major job centers and tourist attractions like the aquarium and historic seaport in Mystic. It would result in significantly reduced rail service to several towns and cities on the current line like New London, rendering as out of the way important attractions like the Thames River Heritage Park – just blocks from the current Amtrak station, which would have to be moved under this plan. It would harm the sensitive ecological treasure of the Connecticut River Estuary. And even though it just exists on paper so far, this proposal has reportedly already impacted property values in our state; if included in a Selected Alternative, it would continue to hang like a dark cloud over southeastern Connecticut, having dire and dramatic effects no matter how remote its chances are of ever becoming reality. Its exclusion from a Selected Alternative would eliminate this ominous threat and allow us to focus on what we know is the region’s choice for improving service: rebuilding the infrastructure we currently have, ensuring it meets new and increasing demands.
The second poorly conceived provision entails dramatically modifying the current route to create a new double-track route that would cut through and across many existing communities, including Greenwich, Stamford, Norwalk and Westport. Some of this would be parallel to Interstate 95, but much remains unclear. Regardless, this would be an unprecedented level of upheaval in a densely populated area that could – like the Kenyon bypass – have disastrous cultural, economic and environmental consequence for many communities in our state. This plan would also ignore the clear preference our constituents have for rehabilitating current infrastructure instead of starting new projects that bring more harm than benefit.
We are confident our constituents will provide additional support and raise additional concerns regarding the key issues we bring to your attention. Their thoughts and feedback must be given great weight and deference before your agency chooses a Selected Alternative. Few states have been engaged as vigorously as Connecticut has been or would experience as many impacts from this plan, as evidenced by the fact that more than half of the 3,200 comments submitted to the FRA during an earlier round of proposals came from our state. We certainly appreciate the agency’s engagement with our state so far. As FRA officials have seen and heard firsthand, anything that undermines our state’s character, economy, or environment will be opposed fiercely by our constituents – as well as by us in Congress.
We appreciate your attention to these important matters and look forward to your response.
Have you submitted your public comment on NEC Future? It's easy.... just write to email@example.com and tell them that you oppose the Old Saybrook to Kenyon Bypass. Short and simple is just fine. ... See MoreSee Less
Yes - Comprehensive Plan to remove grade crossings - 3-mi. shorter - Underground Access to Richardson Sta. - rail-nyc-access.com/rail-nec-future
The irony... perhaps our readers can share some pictures on twitter with Amtrak, to show them what life looks like in the path of the Kenyon to Saybrook bypass. The 30,000 feet analogy is what the FRA uses to excuse NEC Future planning. Just reply to the tweet below, with a picture from the ground and identify it with Kenyon to Old Saybrook
Thanks for posting the info contained in the statement. It will serve as a pattern for me as we move toward separate litgation, aimed at the same set of improprieties. In NY, have been telling them the same thing about their (numerous) tunnel plans for 22 years, and they have yet to reply in any way that reflects even cursory understanding of my proposal. Am definitely for upgrading the existing line in the area of the proposed Bypass in Connecticut, something not contemplated in the FRA's environmental documents though it's urgently needed. I have a proposal for upgrading the line there including an underground station to serve the historic station at New London. Also, a future Connecticut Shortcut, located some distance from FRA’s disputed 44-mile freight bypass - which it would not be in Amtrak’s interest to build. See: rail-nyc-access.com – “NEC Future? - or Backwardation” A link is provided there for detailed viewing of the proposal with its elevations and measurements.
Since Christmas, there has been much concern over planning for future rail service in Southeastern Connecticut and Southwestern Rhode Island. Near final plans have been released for the construction of a new and controversial rail bypass between Old Saybrook and Kenyon, RI. Additionally, the Connect...