June 6, 2020

Opinion: With Thanks to the Groups That Have Already Sent Comments About the High-Speed Train Route to the FRA … Now It’s Our Turn

An Acela train travels through Rocky Neck State Park this morning.

We are fortunate here in Old Lyme that three different organizations made the decision to commit a vast amount of resources, primarily in terms of innumerable volunteer hours, to prepare pages and pages of well-researched comments on the Federal Rail Authority’s (FRA) Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

These comments prepared respectively by the Town of Old Lyme, the Connecticut Fund for the Environment (CFE), and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation and SECoast (its special project dedicated to organizing and educating the public to protect Southeastern Connecticut and the Lower Connecticut River Valley) have now been submitted their comments to the FRA ahead of the March 1 deadline for receiving comments.

It should be stressed, however, that the FRA is not obliged to respond to these comments in detail (as it was in the previous stage of the project) prior to issuing its Record of Decision (ROD), which is anticipated as early as March 1 but now seems likely to be issued later in the month at the earliest.

Reading the comments — 82 pages by the Town of Old Lyme,  a five-page-letter by the CFE, and 41 pages by the CT Trust for Historic Preservation and SECoast — one can only marvel at the level of detail and comprehensive analysis displayed coupled with incisive and objective reasoning. The overall message of all three groups is crystal clear — the FRA failed to communicate its plan effectively, failed to analyze its impact sufficiently, and failed to justify its choice of proposed route convincingly.

A veritable army of people assisted with the production of the Town’s comments, the covering letter for which was sent by Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder; the CFE letter is signed byAndrew W. Minikowski, Esq., Legal Fellow of the CFE; and the CT Trust for Historic Preservation’s comments are authored by Daniel Mackay, Executive Director of the Trust, and Gregory Stroud, Director of Special Projects and founder of SECoast. We owe an enormous debt of thanks to these individuals and the many, many more — some named, some unnamed in the documents — who have freely given of their time and expertise to formulate these coherent arguments against the FRA’s currently proposed route.

It should be noted that all the documents stress the respective organization’s support for the concept of an improved passenger rail service from Washington DC to Boston, Mass.

We, as a community, now owe it to these people who have worked so hard on our collective behalf to support their efforts and write or email the FRA today (tomorrow, March 1, is the deadline) with your own opinions about the Old Saybrook to Kenyon, RI bypass.  As Stroud said yesterday morning in response to a question asked at a presentation he made at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, “The FRA needs to hear from individuals.  It’s the number of comments that they receive, which will make an impact.  You don’t have to write a masterpiece.  It doesn’t have to be long.  Just write and, at minimum, mention the bypass specifically and say you do not support it.”

Comments should be sent by email to: info@necfuture.com or by mail to:
U.S. DOT Federal Railroad Administration
One Bowling Green Suite 429
New York, NY 10004

So … top of your “To Do” list for today is to write that email or letter … you owe it to yourself, but more than that, you owe it to these selfless people who have already given so much for us, but ultimately, you owe it to your community.

Thank you so much.

Read a related Letter to the Editor from Town Attorney Jack Collins at this link.



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