It might seem that things have gone quiet since we published an Op-Ed by Dr. Gregory Stroud on Jan. 29 about the proposals made by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regarding possible routes for a new high-speed rail track in the Northeast Corridor.
Alternative 1 of the three presented by the FRA stirred a riot of emotions in the residents of Old Lyme when they found out that the plan called for a route through the center of Old Lyme’s Historic District — one that Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder succinctly described as a route that, “would kill our community.”
But while on the surface everything seemed quiet, underneath that veneer of passivity, a flurry of activity — led by Reemsnyder — has been taking place.
In a phone conversation Saturday afternoon, she told LymeLine about the numerous avenues being pursued to ensure Old Lyme’s opinions regarding Alternative 1 are heard, “loud and clear,” noting that she has focused her efforts on reaching officials, “who can advocate for us.” And the results of those efforts are looking, at this point, decidedly positive.
Reemsnyder reported that a meeting of all the major stakeholders impacted by the proposal took place last week. These stakeholders included the Florence Griswold Museum, Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, Old Lyme Open Space Commission, Old Lyme Conservation Trust, Connecticut River Museum, Connecticut Audubon Society, Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center, Old Lyme Historic District Commission, Old Lyme Historical Society and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation with one representative from each organization present, along with town leaders. Reemsnyder said the group is currently working on a joint statement forcefully expressing their shared concerns about Alternative 1, adding that the statement is near to completion and will be released early this coming week.
Reemsnyder said she has also reached out to state and federal congressmen. State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd) and State Senator Paul Formica (R-20th) had already issued a statement declaring their opposition to the proposed route. At the federal level, after Reemsnyder had a conversation with local US Representative Joe Courtney, he and his colleagues US Senator Chris Murphy and US Senator Richard Blumenthal drafted a letter to the Administrator of the FRA, which fundamentally questioned the process that FRA had followed in the development of its alternative railroad routes. The letter also urged the FRA to provide opportunities to allow communities being impacted by the FRA proposals to express their views … and then listen carefully to them.
Reemsnyder also told LymeLine that she contacted Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker, who is also currently chair of the board which is overseeing the whole FRA project. She said that Redeker confirmed to her that the board had asked the FRA to improve the existing train track rather than develop a new route and moreover, he intended to remind the FRA of that point.
Finally, and in an extremely important move, Reemsnyder managed to connect with the Senior Vice President of the FRA project, who works for a private company. He not only gave reassurances to Reemsnyder that the concerns of the Old Lyme community were being clearly heard but also offered to come and meet with Reemsnyder “to allay the community’s concerns.” This meeting has not yet been set up but is in the works.
Most significantly for all town residents, Reemsnyder told LymeLine that she heard from the project manager that, “This [Alternative 1] is not going to happen.” Stressing that “This doesn’t mean that I will stop making sure it doesn’t happen,” Reemsnyder is clearly encouraged at the general direction of the discussion and stated, “People who have influence are taking note.”
Finally, she noted that a press conference is being organized at a date and time yet to be determined in the coming week to bring the public up to speed with developments.