Feds kill CT–RI rail bypass plan
The Federal Rail Administration has decided to axe plans for a rail bypass between New Haven, CT, and Providence, RI, according to The Westerly Sun.
The decision was part of the environmental impact statement for the FRA's NEC Future initiative, which, according to Amtrak, will help determine investment along the Northeast Corridor (NEC).
The controversial project received pushback from locals who objected to the construction of new tracks through inland farms and conservation areas parallel to existing tracks along the shoreline. Public officials and community groups have encouraged the FRA to repair and upgrade the existing tracks instead of building new ones.
Amtrak dominates train travel along the NEC. The corridor's main line is 457 miles long and services major cities like Washington, DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston. Taking connecting routes into account brings the total to almost 900 miles of track. According to Amtrak, more than 2,100 passenger trains and 60 freight trains run along the NEC each day.
It makes sense, then, that Amtrak is leading the $24 billion Gateway Initiative, which aims to make major repairs, replacements and upgrades to the NEC's existing infrastructure in the New York City area.
The largest portion of that program is the construction of a new Hudson River tunnel — connecting New York and New Jersey — and the repair of the existing one. The latest Federal Transit Administration cost estimate for that project is $12.9 billion, up from a previous projection of $7.7 billion.
Gateway Program Development Corporation (GPDC) officials said they are waiting on a financial commitment from the Trump administration in order to move forward with construction. Speed of construction is imperative because the existing tunnel suffered significant damage as the result of flooding from Superstorm Sandy, in 2012. Officials fear it will need to be shut down before the new tunnel is complete.
As an alternative to federal funding, the GPDC has agreed to consider using private financing. One of those options is a public-private partnership, and private companies have already indicated interest in participating.
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