U.S. Senator Chris Murphy and The Business Council recently hosted a forum on the Federal Rail Administration’s (FRA) plan to improve intercity service within the Northeast Corridor by offering high-speed rail and more service. While the economic potential high-speed rail presents is a great opportunity it also involves community decisions at local and state levels.
In July, the FRA formally selected an investment program for the Northeast Corridor (NEC) after completing a planning process of the corridor’s current and future transportation demands begun in 2012, known as NEC FUTURE.
The Northeast Corridor is a 457-mile rail transportation spine that runs from Washington, D.C., to Boston, carrying more than 2,200 intercity, commuter, and freight trains per day. While most of the rail line is owned by Amtrak, New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts also own portions of the line. The NEC carries over 750,000 riders per day on Amtrak and eight commuter rail authority trains.*
With the July release of their Record of Decision, Senator Murphy and The Business Council wanted to begin a public dialogue on the implications for the region and the state.
Participating on the panel were State Sen. Tony Hwang (R-Fairfield), State Rep. Cristin McCarthy Vahey (D-Fairfield), Westport First Selectman James Marpe, Mayor David Martin of Stamford, Mayor Harry Rilling of Norwalk, State Rep. Jonathan Steinberg (D-Westport), and Fairfield First Selectman Michael Tetreau.
While the elected officials were in agreement on the economic opportunities made possible by increased access within the region, all expressed concern about the citing details.
In summarizing Sen. Murphy commented, “I wanted to let you all know, as a member of the (Transportation) committee that will untie this knot, where my head is at. I am going to be talking about this as an opportunity for the state and when I talk about it under those terms I don’t want you to hear that I don’t understand the very legitimate and important citing concerns. But I worry that if the message the rest of the country gets from Connecticut is ‘No, we are not interested’ then any conversation around big infrastructure dollars coming to the U.S. will go somewhere else that is willing to say yes. I would recommend we are in a mindset to find a way to say yes, demanding we have local sign off and state approval.”
*cited from NEC Future website