NARP Letter to FRA Advocates for Northeast Corridor Vision
February 28, 2017
(Note: These comments are included as a PDF for the record as well as in text below)
U.S. DOT Federal Railroad Administration
One Bowling Green, Suite 429
New York, NY 10004
To Whom It May Concern:
The National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP) would like to thank the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and the NEC FUTURE team for conducting the NEC FUTURE Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in such detail and providing requisite options to implement a 21st century vision for Northeast Corridor (NEC) rail service.
NARP strongly supports the route selection of the Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), but with some reservations. We believe adding 217 miles of new track segments in the Preferred Alternative offers a balanced approach to selecting a suitable alignment that serves the greatest potential ridership – both regional and intercity – with enhanced frequency and level of passenger train operations despite the many environmental, geographical and historical constraints along this densely populated corridor.
However, we hasten to add that the NEC’s more immediate needs center on elements crucial to preserving Corridor’s operating integrity. Thus, NARP urges the FRA to prioritize these more pressing issues which include but are not limited to: 1) expedited construction of the new trans-Hudson rail tunnels, 2) replacing the Portal Bridge in the New Jersey Meadowlands, 3) replacing the Baltimore and Potomac tunnel in Baltimore, and 4) construction of the North-South Rail Link in Boston, along with other priorities as spelled out by the Northeast Corridor Commission (NECC).
Our members are aware of strident local opposition in Connecticut and Rhode Island by both local communities and their elected state and federal representatives to the Preferred Alternative's Shore Line Bypass alignment, and some of our members share that concern. We strongly urge the FRA and its planners to make all necessary efforts to identify and satisfy community objections in a subsequent Tier 2 study.
If, however, sufficient political and citizen opposition results in the inability to proceed with this line segment, NARP would ask FRA to re-examine DEIS Alternative 2, which routes the high-speed tracks through New Haven to Hartford, Connecticut and then in an easterly direction to Providence, RI.
While entailing some significant tunneling, Alternative 2 has many appealing attributes. Specifically: 1) it establishes a "new" New England (inland) corridor linking Boston, Providence, Hartford and New Haven to New York City and beyond, 2) it may eliminate the significant opposition now expressed by both Connecticut and Rhode Island Shore Line citizenry and their elected representatives, 3) it preserves Providence access on a high-speed alignment, 4) it allows for the capture of additional rail ridership on a new corridor and 5) it provides greater economic benefits to New Haven, Hartford, and intermediate communities. Importantly, the towns of New London, Mystic, Kingston and Westerly would still have service as they do now. Clearly, it's not an "either or" situation.
Thank you for allowing the National Association of Railroad Passengers the opportunity to submit suggestions in this vital transportation study for the Northeast Corridor. Feel free to contact us for any further information as need requires.
President & CEO
National Association of Railroad Passengers
505 Capital Court NE, Ste 300
Washington DC 20002