At a press conference held yesterday at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, U.S. Sen. Blumenthal, Rep. Courtney, state Department of Transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker, state legislators from the southeastern Connecticut shoreline and Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder stood united in their opposition to the Federal Railroad Authority’s Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) released yesterday.
The EIS includes the controversial Old Saybrook to Kenyon, R.I., bypass, which travels through Old Lyme, although in Blumenthal’s words, “the needle did move … the FRA backed off in terms of an aerial route,” and a modification has been made in that a tunnel is now proposed from Old Saybrook to Old Lyme — details of the precise route of the tunnel are unclear. But Blumenthal continued, “A tunnel raises another whole set of questions … the [Connecticut River] estuary is one of the world’s treasures.”
At one point in the press conference, Senator Blumenthal held up a photo from the EIS report of the massive boring equipment that would be used to dig the tunnel commenting it would be used to destroy whole neighborhoods.
Blumenthal stressed time and again that the proposed plan is “DOA — dead on arrival,” because “the FRA statement made it crystal clear that the process migrates to Hartford now,” and “this plan is not ever going to pass muster,” He clarified, “This is a plan with no funding,” indicating that if the state of Connecticut does not underwrite the cost of the proposed railroad in the state, it cannot proceed.
Reemsnyder spoke passionately of the effect that the proposed route would have on Old Lyme, saying, “It has the potential of devastating our community, despite all the communication [confirming expressing that opinion.] She added regarding the new tunnel option, “We still have grave concerns [about that option], the [Connecticut River] estuary is one of the few in the world without industry … our residents have invested in the environment, giving their time, effort and money.” Reemsnyder acknowledged the support of all the state and town leaders standing with her noting, “I’m glad to see my colleagues behind me,” and stating firmly, “We will continue the fight.” She reminded the audience in conclusion, “This plan will only go forward when Connecticut wants it to go forward.”
Pointing out, “This report ignores the concerns of residents,” Senator Paul Formica (R-20th) said he planned on, “introducing legislation to prevent using Connecticut funds to fund this plan” until a “common sense and reasonable solution” is found. All speakers were in support of investing in Connecticut’s railroad but felt the current infrastructure should be upgraded rather than build new tracks, which would only create only marginal time savings for rail travelers.
State Rep. Devin Carney (R-23rd) noted, “This plan is like a black cloud hanging over the Town of Old Lyme,” and commented on the “disturbing aspect” of the plan in that the FRA, “decided to ram it through.” In giving his support to Formica’s proposed legislation, Carney said firmly, “I stand with Senator Formica … shame on the FRA.”
Gregory Stroud, Executive Director of SECoast.org — the non-profit “organizing and educating the public to protect Southeastern Connecticut and the Lower Connecticut River Valley” — was encouraged by Formica’s proposed legislation, commenting by email, “If there is a bright side to the news today, it is that State Rep. Devin Carney and State Sen. Paul Formica have taken exactly the right tack, proposing legislation to block funding for the Kenyon to Saybrook bypass if it fails to garner local support. It’s a concrete step that hits directly at the weakness of the plan, and helps turn vague
assurances into concrete legal hurdles. It’s important legislation. It deserves bipartisan support, and we hope that
Governor Malloy will stand up for southeastern Connecticut and lend his support.”
We thank our friends at CTNewsJunkie.com for sending us their photos from the press conference. Click here to read a report of the press conference by Christine Stuart of CTNewsJunkie.com and published Dec. 16.
Click here to read a commentary by SECoast.org on yesterday’s announcement, which includes some very important information about the fact that the FRA finalized this proposed route over a year ago. To quote from SECoast’s blog post, “… The plan released yesterday is the same plan we uncovered through the Freedom of Information Act in late June. It includes the same finalized maps and documents we uncovered in early September. This is the same plan that CT DOT Commissioner James Redeker discussed with staff, Federal Railroad Administration and David Carol of Parsons Brinckerhoff days after the close of public comment on February 16. Remember, in an interview with the Connecticut Mirror, CT DOT Public Transportation chief Richard Andreski admitted that this same plan, unchanged, was chosen all the way back in November 2015 prior to public comment …” Read the full post at this link.
View the FRA’s map of the proposed route at this link; Old Lyme is on Map Sheet 18, which is at page 30/71.
A report by Kimberly Drelich published by The Day Dec. 17 is at this link.
A report by Don Stacom published by the Hartford Courant Dec. 16 is at this link.