- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 18, 2017

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - A bipartisan group of Rhode Island legislators is opposing a plan to build a new Amtrak line that would speed up rail travel between Boston and New York City.

Seventeen state lawmakers sent a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration this week expressing concern about the proposed bypass that would extend from Old Lyme, Connecticut, into southwestern Rhode Island.

“This bypass goes through wetlands, aquifers, nature preserves, designated open space, private property and farmland,” they wrote. “The effect this project would have on southwestern Rhode Island would be enormous. There are quality of life implications, environmental threats and historic preservation concerns.”

The group represents Rhode Island’s southernmost county in the General Assembly. The plan to straighten a roughly 40-mile route to eliminate speed-restricting curves has received vociferous opposition along the eastern Connecticut shoreline for more than a year but received less attention in Rhode Island.

That changed last month when federal railroad regulators endorsed an ambitious and costly 30-year plan to rebuild Amtrak’s busy Northeast Corridor and invited affected communities to submit comments by Jan. 31. The proposed changes for the Washington-Boston route would upgrade outdated bridges and tunnels, run more trains and build new tracks allowing higher speeds.

For months, Rhode Island’s Providence-based leaders had expressed support for faster and more efficient trains. Their biggest concern was making sure Amtrak’s new high-speed line didn’t skip over the state capital. But growing awareness that a faster route would require carving a new segment through rural areas, open space and near Narragansett Indian tribal land has led to an uproar in some Washington County towns whose leaders felt left out of the process.

“We didn’t hear directly from the federal government,” said state Senate Minority Leader Dennis Algiere, a Westerly Republican who helped write the letter. “We found out basically through the press and third parties.”

The Westerly Sun reported Wednesday (https://bit.ly/2iBhO6G ) that federal railroad officials recently held a conference call with Charlestown officials and tentatively plan to visit the town next week. Westerly town leaders are also planning to formally oppose the bypass.

Railroad officials have repeatedly said the proposals are just recommendations for the future of East Coast rail travel and it will now be up to states, cities, railroads and the incoming administration of Republican President-elect Donald Trump to decide whether to move forward with any specific projects.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide