Today we welcome representatives from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) at Lyme-Old Lyme High School, 4:30PM. The following is a statement I planned on reading if the meeting format had allowed for public comment:
Congress established the Northeast Corridor Commission in 2008 and it was “chartered to facilitate collaborative planning and unified action” for the NEC Future process. The Commission’s report, NEC FUTURE and Investing in the Northeast Corridor: Advancing the American Economy (02/19/2016) (http://www.nec-commission.com), estimates the annual economic loss to our nation’s economy due to frequent Northeast Corridor (NEC) service disruptions at $500M. Equally important, the report clearly and strongly supports the needed investment in a NEC which includes the mid-size cities to advance the potential of the railroad as an engine for the American economy. “The potential for more transformative economic gain may lie in mid-sized cities such as Baltimore, Hartford, Newark, New Haven, Providence, and Wilmington. Their economies, with anchors such as research universities and corporate headquarters, stand to benefit from more reliable and frequent service, providing faster access to the financial and human capital resources of major hubs. Such investment in infrastructure would support recent economic and demographic trends and align with local economic development plans already in place. Additional capacity, improved travel time, and new origin-destination pairs could ensure the viability of projected growth in major markets, spark growth in mid-sized markets, and put the U.S. on par with peer regions around the world when competing for economic growth. Other cities, such as Hartford, not on the NEC mainline, have the potential to benefit with higher levels of investment. Today, infrequent service and lengthy travel times place limits on the potential growth mid-size cities might realize in terms population and jobs. Service improvements in consideration through the NEC FUTURE process would dramatically decrease the travel time from mid-sized cities such as Wilmington, Providence, and Hartford to the larger strong markets in New York, Boston, and Washington.”
The FRA should support the Commission’s findings by selecting the alternative, or modifications of the alternative, which provides increased mainline access to the NEC for customers and businesses, and significant improvement in travel time to hub cities by expanding NEC service to the underserved mid-size markets including New Haven and Hartford, CT. Eliminate the Old Saybrook-Kenyon Rhode, Island bypass option as it certainly does not meet the stated goals of the NEC Future and in fact, is in opposition to the Commission’s findings as it threatens an established economy of a small historical town and does not provide significant access or significant time savings to hub cities.