OLD LYME, Conn. (WTNH) – Although it has not been publicly announced yet, emailed obtained by SECoast have confirmed the a high speed railroad will be routed through Old Lyme.
Emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act filed with the Connecticut Department of Transportation show that the Federal Rail Administration decided four months ago to route the next generation of high speed rail infrastructure through Old Lyme and eastern coastal Connecticut.
Gregory Stroud, executive director of SECoast, a nonprofit collaborative on issues of preservation in Southeastern Connecticut and the Lower Connecticut River Valley, obtained internal Connecticut Department of Transportation emails from Commissioner James Redeker to Public Transportation Chief James Andreski which appear to confirm Federal Railroad Administration plans for a Kenyon, Rhode Island to Old Saybrook, Connecticut high speed rail bypass through Old Lyme in or adjacent to the I-95.These plans would also include a separate New Haven to Springfield, Massachusetts route as part of a newly “modified” NEC Future: Alternative 2 proposal.
The possibility of a Kenyon to Saybrook bypass, a surprise late addition to past evaluations of high speed rail, has provoked widespread concern and opposition from citizens and organizations in the region, and prompted roughly 1200 public comments to the Federal Railroad Administration out of 3000 from across the United States. Old Lyme is internationally recognized as the home of American Impressionism, and the Federal Railroad Administration’s initial proposal called for a new rail bridge and elevated tracks through the picturesque marshes and heart of the town’s National Register Historic District.
“This routing decision will have a major impact on the historic, cultural and environmental resources of Connecticut’s eastern seacoast communities,” said Daniel Mackay, Executive Director of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation. “The FRA and its consultants settled on a preferred route four months ago – it’s long past time they meet the residents of the region face to face to address numerous concerns about where and how they propose to build this industrial-scale transportation infrastructure, and how they will protect the resources that make these Connecticut communities unique.”
Stroud called on the Federal Railroad Administration and Parsons Brinckerhoff to delay the decision on a preferred route until after the project had passed public and environmental scrutiny. “Due diligence can’t follow decision-making in a multi-billion dollar project such as this,” Stroud stated. “These plans for a Kenyon to Saybrook bypass were not part of the original ninety eight alternatives announced by the federal government in 2012. They have not undergone the same level of agency or public scrutiny as other routes.” He added, “not one single environmental study has been conducted to determine the feasibility or impact of a tunnel under the Connecticut River estuary or under Old Lyme’s National Register Historic District. Plans for crossing the Thames River are undefined. Not one public meeting on this project has been held in New London or Middlesex counties or southern Rhode Island.”
The state and federal-level conversations captured in these emails occurred several weeks prior to a private March 11, 2016 meeting between David Carol and Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, aides and other local officials. These emails obtained by SECoast as part of a May 22, 2016 Freedom of Information Act request, funded in part by donations from the local community, are the first public confirmation of Federal Railroad Administration plans for high speed rail along the Northeast Corridor. Two additional Freedom of Information Act requests filed earlier with the Federal Railroad Administration on April 4, 2016 remain unfilled.