Courtney Hails Withdrawal Of Plan to Realign Passenger Rail Tracks Across Eastern Connecticut
WASHINGTON, DC—Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) issued the following statement after the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced that it was withdrawing the controversial New Haven-to-Providence “Kenyon Bypass” portion of the proposed Northeast Corridor (NEC) planning initiative, known as NEC FUTURE, as part of their Record of Decision:
“The welcome demise of the misguided and poorly conceived plan to realign railway tracks through communities across the southeastern Connecticut shoreline is a testament to the grass roots effort and perseverance of local residents and town leaders,” said Courtney. “From the start, the creation of a new bypass was a proposal untethered from reality. Whether it was the plan’s exorbitant cost without a funding source, the disruption ‘Kenyon Bypass’ would cause from Old Lyme to New London to Stonington, the mere existence of this map cast a cloud of uncertainty and doubt across a region with a history and environment as rich and valuable as any place in our nation. Throughout the FRA’s process of developing this plan, I have been clear that no proposal should move forward without the advice and consent of the state of Connecticut and of our shoreline communities.
“I could not be more pleased that the proposal to cut new tracks through and tunnel under Old Lyme, the Connecticut River and towns to the east, has been completely scrapped. In its place, the plan released today devolves decision making to state officials and local stakeholders from New Haven to Providence to come up with a way forward for improving rail service in the area. This is just the start of a process to improve our rail infrastructure in a sensible and realistic way. I want to thank the FRA for listening to the overwhelming input of citizens and for continuing to work with my office to achieve the best solution for the residents of southeastern Connecticut.”
The Record of Decision completes the “Tier 1” Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for NEC FUTURE and identifies the final selected route of the FRA’s planning initiative for improved passenger rail service between Washington, D.C. and Boston, MA. The Record of Decision removes a track realignment proposal—published in the December 16, 2016 Tier 1 Final EIS—between New Haven, CT and Providence, RI. Instead, the Record of Decision calls on the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island to collaborate on a new initiative called the “New Haven to Providence Capacity Planning Study” to determine the best way to meet future service and capacity needs. The FRA will cooperate with the two states in this new study, and recommends that Massachusetts and other stakeholders, such as Amtrak, collaborate in the process. In addition to the study, the Record of Decision recommends that this section of track improve rail service through a state of good repair along its current footprint.
Courtney has been outspoken in urging FRA to heed local concerns about the proposed bypass:
- February 2016: Courtney led a comment letter with Senators Murphy and Blumenthal to FRA Administrator Feinberg raising concerns about the proposed “Kenyon Bypass” released in the Tier 1 Draft EIS. Of the 3,000 comments submitted for the NEC FUTURE plan, 1,200 were about the “Kenyon Bypass”
- February – July 2016: Courtney and staff hold a series of three meetings with Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, Connecticut DOT Commissioner James P. Redeker, River Council of Governments (RiverCOG) director Sam Gold, and NEC FUTURE Project Manager Rebecca Reyes-Alicea.
- August 2016: FRA holds a forum at Lyme-Old Lyme high school, per the request of Congressman Courtney
- December 2016: FRA releases their Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement, which included the “Kenyon Bypass” and a newly-proposed tunnel under Old Lyme, CT
- January 2017: The Connecticut Delegation sent a letter to FRA asking for a four week extension of the comment period so stakeholders could properly understand the new changes in the Final EIS and comment before the Record of Decision
- February 2017: Courtney sends letter to House Appropriators to assure that Congress would make no money available for the “Kenyon Bypass”—Ranking Members on the House Appropriations Committee and the T-HUD Subcommittee responded with agreement
- February 2017: Courtney and Blumenthal send a Tier 1 Final EIS comment letter, continuing to highlight opposition to the “Kenyon Bypass”
- July 2017: Final ROD released, removes “Kenyon Bypass”