September 21, 2020

Op-Ed: Proposed Northeast Corridor High Speed Rail Route Cuts Through Old Lyme Historical District, Public Comment Now Extended to Feb. 16

Proposed routes for high speed rail track under Amtrak's Northeast Corridor modernization plans.

Proposed routes for high speed rail track under Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor modernization plans.

One month ago, with little fanfare, the Federal government announced a plan to modernize the Northeast Corridor by rerouting high-speed rail lines over a new bridge crossing the Connecticut River, across the saltwater marshes at the Lieutenant River and through the historical district of Old Lyme.

The plan appears so nonsensical, from a local perspective, that it is very easy to dismiss out of hand. It will never happen. A high-speed rail through our little town, the home of American Impressionism? A town so wonderful, in its own way, that from a local perspective we feel well-neigh untouchable.  It will never happen.

But then, I ask you, when did you first hear of the plan? And why not? Public comment was originally scheduled to close on January 31st. It has been extended two weeks until February 15th. After that, I am told, our leverage will be immeasurably weaker, and our task considerably more difficult and more lengthy. This odd silence should give us pause. Why haven’t we heard?

To be sure, this is a slow train. And it will take years of revision and appropriations, and very likely it will never happen in its entirety. But I urge you to look at the plan. It’s available for study and comment at There is no doubt that at least part of this plan will happen. The Connecticut River crossing will be modernized. And the preferred alternative—there are three—will be chosen later this year. If Alternative 1 is chosen as the preferred option, even if it is later blocked, it will hang over our town for a decade, or more, promising destruction, lowering property values, troubling mortgages.

Yes, from a local perspective the plan is absurd, but the plan was not written from a local perspective. Alternative 1, the plan that most directly impacts Old Lyme, from the Federal—even on the state level—appears, on its face, the most sensible, the least expensive, the least impactful. In fact, if you look carefully through the footnotes, which discuss in detail the cultural and historical casualties, you will find that for the entire rail line from Boston to Washington, D.C. only one town is slated as a serious loss: Old Lyme. That should give us pause.

In fact, what concerns me most about Alternative 1, is just how sensible it appears, if you’ve never visited Lyme Street, or paddled down the Lieutenant or heard of the Old Lyme Art Colony.  One plan will be chosen. Let’s not make it easy for the politicians, the planners in Washington and Hartford.

Please contact our representatives at the Federal level, in particular, and submit public comment at . We only have two weeks.

Dr. Gregory Stroud
Old Lyme, CT



  1. Ted Crosby says

    As this is a Tier 1 study, a preliminary report, the real plan will be forthcoming, no doubt, at which point the discussion will continue with local comment.

    • Gregory Stroud says

      Although perhaps it looks a bit like I am tilting at an un-built windmill, I am not trying to be alarmist. I think most serious-minded people are pretty sure that this plan will not happen as is. That said, one of the three options (or do nothing) will be selected this year. That option, very likely will be Alternative 1. Tier 1 is already over 3 years, and tens of millions of dollars, into the process. This is very much beyond the napkin-drawing stage however it looks.

      And yes, then planners will continue on to Tier 2. And Tier 2 planners have an obligation to rebut or to change the plan in response to public comment (which would have ended tomorrow). And, of course, there is a political process, and Old Lyme is, in relative terms, a fairly powerful town. Senator Blumenthal is in fact one of the key players in drafting the proposal.

      But I can tell you for certain, that almost every group and organization, environmental and preservationist, was taken by surprise. That should give us pause. I can also say for certain, that most or all of these organizations are taking this plan extremely seriously, and are playing catch-up. A lot of talented people are now focusing on this now, in part, because maximum leverage is at the tier 1 stage. And the desire, given that Alternative 1 likely will be chosen, is to have this part of the alternative excised right away (as you can see also reflected in the comments of state-level representatives).

  2. Ron Breault says

    Thanks, Dr Stroud, for bringing this to our attention. While our First Selectwoman has responded strongly to this proposed plan I am surprised this is still under the radar.

    • Gregory Stroud says

      You would be surprised to know, just who didn’t know. One of the most affected and prominent organizations in town learned of the plan just yesterday at lunch. On the state level, a key person in charge of preservation, learned of the plan five days ago.

  3. Michele Dickey says

    This could be something we all ignore as preposterous but that could come to fruition. Let’s all heed the warning and contact our representatives before February 15.

  4. Thank you for this update. Look forward to much more discussion and evaluation. A train track through the center of our historic town is really not a good idea by any measure. Is it possible to show on the map above the existing train route in relation to the proposed new train routes.

  5. Linda A. Stirling says

    You would be destroying the history of Old Lyme and also many art historical places. There are many houses of extreme historical significance. Think of the Florence Griswold house , the museum behind it, Lyme Association, Bee and Thistle, Old Lyme Inn and many others. On the other end of the street the First Congregational Church (which is one of the most photographed and painted Church in New England), the Boxwood ,Cooley. Art galleries and so many others. I am for progress, but not at the price of history.

  6. Jack Spratt says

    As a long time affected property and business owner in the Historic District of Old Lyme, CT, with property abutting part of the salt marsh proposed by North East Corridor Future Alternative 1 rail track rerouting and as a resident of Old Lyme I join my fellow citizens in disbelief that any federal or State agency would seriously consider Alternative 1, rerouting high-speed rail lines over a new bridge crossing the Connecticut River, across the saltwater marshes at the Lieutenant River and through the historical district of Old Lyme. I can assure Amtrak that there will be vigorous opposition to NEC Future plan Alternative 1.
    Alternative 1 would essentially destroy the Old Lyme Historic District, the character of our community and result in significant environmental and economic damage to our region without any potential regional benefits. This plan reminds me of a plan in the 1970’s to build a series of bridges from Long Island across, Orient Point, Plum Island, Great & Little Gull Islands, Fishers Island and across Napatree Point through Watch Hill. If that plan was not stopped before it got to the planning stage it would have destroyed important environmental habitat and recreational resources for future generation! The bridges would have had a significant negative impact on our shoreline communities and we would have been left with the environmental impact. We need/demand to have Alternative 1 removed from any further consideration NOW! This is not just about NIMBY (we already have the Amtrak running through Old Lyme), the Old Lyme Historic District in and of itself is a national treasure. The historic district and marshlands targeted by the NEC Alternative 1 plan are the center of this important historical community of American colonial and maritime history, architecture, art and nature history. The Old Lyme community through many, many generations of preservation minded citizens has carefully protected and maintained the historical character of the district and wetlands which make up part of the district to preserve and protect our historical and nature resources as a whole ecosystem for future generations. Our Art College, Museums, wetlands, open spaces, galleries and architecture is a testament.
    As important, Alternative 1 would result in the loss of critical habitat for migratory birds, aquatic and marshland wildlife, endangered species, flood control protection and the visual corridors which inspired the American Impressionism Art movement.
    Jack Spratt, Old Lyme, CT

  7. David S Nelson says

    What a mess. A long diagonal bridge across the CT river, then wiping out some homes, then disturbing coastal wetlands, then ruining the Lyme Art Academy and then over historic Lyme Street. A wide swath with many gantry poles holding overhead wires. Worse yet frequent bullet trains accelerating or decelerating through this area. Yes I am for modern high speed efficient transportation, but not at this kind of expense here or elsewhere.

    By the time this is built, trains on steel tracks may be an antiquated old technology. Two future possibilities are magnetic levitation and compression/vacuum tube trains. A magnetic levitation train car floats using an electro-magnetic field and is nearly frictionless. Only air resistance. The one I know of that is in operation in China. Center of Beijing to the air port 19 miles away in 9 minutes, station to station at speeds of up to 300 mph. This on a straight more direct inland route from NYC to Boston should be considered. Faster yet, is vacuum tube technology moving capsule cars with air compression in the back and vacuum in the front. These whisking by in sound insulated tubes may not be noticed by those outside the tube. Siting through sensitive areas will be easier. Unfortunately for the airlines, future train travel will cut into their business. Check these two technologies out on You Tube.

    Helpful Hint: To send your comment out to multiple venues type it up on your word processing, then copy and paste to the location you want.

  8. it is important to have consideration of this alternative terminated, forthwith, even though progress toward its resolution is likely to be slow, or rather, because it is likely to be slow…(state rep carney, state sen formica, congressman courtney and senators bluenthal and murphy take note)

    the anxiety produced by its shadow should not be underestimated, anyone who got one of those now infamous r-10 letters and had to go through the protest and appeal processes until the courts intervened knows how much of their quiet enjoyment of life was disturbed -.the tone of the comments herein are evidence enough of concern, outrage, increduity, and mistrust over the threat to historical, pastoral and ecological values that define our “…churched, shopped, gulled and estuaried one state of happiness,” (to borrow from dylan thomas).

  9. Jerry Wylie says

    Someone should check to see if the federal agency in charge has fully complied with section 106 of the Historic Preservation Act which requires them to assess the impacts to all cultural, historic, and archeological values –including historic landscapes– BEFORE a decision is made. It also requires them to obtain comments from the State Historic Preservation Office and to offer a plan to avoid or mitigate impacts. I’m a retired federal historic preservation officer currently out of the country until mid-April but would be happy to assist in any way I can.

  10. Jenny Tripp says

    Of all the ham-fisted, harebrained plans ever made, this really takes the cake. Did the person with the map and the notion take the trouble to pass through the area or research it at all, or does this just represent the shortest distance between two points? Rise up, Connecticut; this is all of our concerns, not just those most directly affected. This is blind, willful devastation.

  11. Please send your comments in on this and make sure the people know that the residents of Old Lyme are not happy. This will ruin the town, the historical area, the Old Lyme Arts Academy and they are talking about taking out entire streets….what about the residents who have built their dream homes there? Keep Old Lyme beautiful.

  12. Anne McCarty says

    Does Amtrak’s vision for NE Corridor include protecting wetlands? Migratory birds? Fragile ecosystems? Cutting down on noise pollution? Not to mention de-valuing properties, destroying historic districts, destroying businesses, destroying the essence of a community by tearing a town in half and running a railway through it. This project is targeted to span over several decades and untold sums in taxpayer dollars before its intended completion. What about changing technologies? Has anyone considered that tracks and “people movers” as we know them might become obsolete by that time?

  13. To make a modern rail system and in the process destroy a historically important town is not just irresponsible, it is criminal. An act of piracy by our govt. this has to be fought.

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