HARTFORD - With the contentious proposal for high-speed rail through shoreline Connecticut communities off the table, state and local officials expect to now focus on locally acceptable ways to upgrade the congested line and plan for the future.
“I believe that we know what’s best for our state and we’ll work on a good solution,” Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsynder said Thursday.
The Federal Railroad Administration on Wednesday announced it has dropped the proposal to build new high-speed railroad tracks through parts of Connecticut and Rhode Island after local complaints that the massive project would devastate historic neighborhoods, marshlands and tourist attractions. Instead, the FRA is calling on Connecticut and Rhode Island to work with the federal agency to complete a New Haven-to-Providence, Rhode Island, capacity planning study and identify infrastructure changes and improvements needed to meet long-term service and performance objectives.
That was welcome news to Greg Stroud, an Old Lyme resident who formed an opposition group to the FRA’s proposal and is the director of special projects at the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation.
“What we’re hoping is, if the states take a larger role, that we should get a better process with better engagement of the local communities,” he said.
Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, said there are “wise alternatives” to what he called the FRA’s “hare-brained, half-baked idea” that will improve rail safety, reliability and speed.
“They involve strengthening and straightening tracks, better rail cars, other kinds of structural improvements and they avoid the massive new bridges and tunnels and bypasses that will never be built because we don’t have the money,” he said. “It’s that simple.”