December 15, 2017

Emails Confirm High Speed Rail Through Old Lyme

We received the following  as a press release from SECoast. It has been published on the organization’s Facebook page and website with the supporting documentation, which for technical reasons, we are currently unable to publish.

Emails obtained by SECoast as part of a Freedom of Information Act request filed with the Connecticut Department of Transportation, indicate that the Federal Rail Administration (FRA) decided four months ago to route the next generation of high speed rail infrastructure on a new bypass through Old Lyme and eastern coastal Connecticut. They have yet to announce this decision publicly.

Gregory Stroud, executive director of SECoast, a nonprofit collaborative on issues of preservation in Southeastern Connecticut and the Lower Connecticut River Valley, obtained internal Connecticut Department of Transportation emails from Commissioner James Redeker to Public Transportation Chief James Andreski which appear to confirm FRA   plans for a Kenyon, Rhode Island to Old Saybrook, Conn., high speed rail bypass through Old Lyme in or adjacent to the I-95 corridor. These plans would also include a separate New Haven to Springfield, Mass., route as part of a newly “modified” NEC Future: Alternative 2 proposal.

Within two days of the close of public comment, agency emails indicate that the FRA had committed to a coastal bypass route through Connecticut. Redeker writes on Feb. 18, 2016, that “after spending a few hours with the team, David Carol tells me the NEC Future team … will be leaving the Kenyon bypass for the spine to Boston, because they are completely focused on delivering four-track capacity to Boston.”

Carol, a former Old Lyme resident, is heading efforts by Parsons Brinckerhoff to develop high speed rail between Boston and Washington, DC. The multinational engineering and design firm, a veteran of such projects as the Big Dig in Boston, and the Raymond E. Baldwin bridge at the mouth of the Connecticut river, is leading a state and federal project, dubbed NEC Future, to modernize high speed rail along the Northeast Corridor.

The possibility of a Kenyon to Saybrook bypass, a surprise late addition to past evaluations of high speed rail, has provoked widespread concern and opposition from citizens and organizations in the region, and prompted roughly 1200 public comments to the Federal Railroad Administration out of 3000 from across the United States.

Old Lyme is internationally recognized as the home of American Impressionism, and the FRA’s initial proposal called for a new rail bridge and elevated tracks through the picturesque marshes and heart of the town’s National Register Historic District.

Further emails, after a Feb. 26, 2016 Northeast Corridor Commission meeting of private, state, and federal officials at Parsons Brinckerhoff headquarters in Manhattan, appear to confirm a long-standing decision to route the rail project through Old Lyme in modified form as a tunnel. Andreski informed Redeker and other state transportation officials, that the FRA project manager in charge, Rebecca Reyes-Alicea,“explained the various adjustment [sic] they were making in response to public comments. For example the Old Lyme Kenyon Bypass concept is being modified. Hartford Line [sic] will be included as an additional feeder spine …. Rebecca stated they recognize more work is need on the alternative concepts …. Still I believe they are pressing forward on Alternative 2 with the mods decribed [sic] above.”

“This routing decision will have a major impact on the historic, cultural and environmental resources of Connecticut’s eastern seacoast communities,” said Daniel Mackay, Executive Director of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation. “The FRA and its consultants settled on a preferred route four months ago – it’s long past time they meet the residents of the region face to face to address numerous concerns about where and how they propose to build this industrial-scale transportation infrastructure, and how they will protect the resources that make these Connecticut communities unique.”

Stroud called on the FRA and Parsons Brinckerhoff to delay the decision on a preferred route until after the project had passed public and environmental scrutiny. “Due diligence can’t follow decision-making in a multi-billion dollar project such as this,” Stroud stated. “These plans for a Kenyon to Saybrook bypass were not part of the original 98 alternatives announced by the federal government in 2012. They have not undergone the same level of agency or public scrutiny as other routes.”

He added, “not one single environmental study has been conducted to determine the feasibility or impact of a tunnel under the Connecticut River estuary or under Old Lyme’s National Register Historic District. Plans for crossing the Thames River are undefined. Not one public meeting on this project has been held in New London or Middlesex counties or southern Rhode Island.”

The state and federal-level conversations captured in these emails occurred several weeks prior to a private March 11, 2016 meeting between David Carol and Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, aides and other local officials. These emails obtained by SECoast as part of a May 22, 2016 Freedom of Information Act request, funded in part by donations from the local community, are the first public confirmation of FRA plans for high speed rail along the Northeast Corridor.

Two additional Freedom of Information Act requests filed earlier with the Federal Railroad Administration on April 4, 2016 remain unfilled.

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Comments

  1. Ron Breault says:

    Maybe our elected representatives – in the State legislature, the Congress, and the Governor, would be willing to post their official positions on this matter here on Lymeline

  2. E. Feltham says:

    What is the name address of the primary citizens’ group fighting this horror, and what are the marching orders for those concerned?

    • you can contact us at gregorystroud@secoast.org. We have been very active on this since the winter, as an independent nonprofit devoted to preservation issues in the region in collaboration with the state-wide Connecticut Trust for Historic preservation.

      Our effort has a very cordial relationship with the local representatives Devin Carney and Paul Formica. Both have been quite supportive and helpful on this. We are in contact with our reps at the federal level, and so far, they have been friendly, but much less helpful. We are hoping that last part will change.

      We have a very a very active facebook page which reposts to SECoast.org. You can sign up for our mailing list there.

      Write us for more…

  3. Lori Hopkins-Cavanagh says:

    I have been fighting against the Governor’s transportation initiatives for years, as well as, the disparate impact housing initiatives that have targeted Old Lyme for being too white skinned. If you want to know what the government is up to, look at mapping and planning.

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