Business leaders and environmentalists lined up today to urge the General Assembly to officially go on record as opposing the federal government’s multi-billion dollar plan to move the rail line between Kenyan, Rhode
Island and Old Saybrook, Connecticut in order to trim 20 minutes off the trip from Boston to Washington.
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“At the very least it will slow things down. It will give people the opportunity to make their voices heard about whether or not this project should be funded or whether it should happen at all,” said Peggy Roberts of the Mystic Chamber of Commerce. State lawmakers heard that the new route would take the rail line through environmentally sensitive areas in both states. “Most importantly to the aquifer in White Rock, which is our community that is the main water source to seventy percent of the residents of Pawcatuck, Connecticut and Westerly, Rhode Island,” said Lisa Konicki of the Ocean Community Chamber, which represents business in both states.
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The current plan also bisects some of the biggest tourist sites in the state, which is a large part of the business life-blood of Southeastern Connecticut. It could be especially hard on Chris Regan, who owns the ‘Olde Mystick Village Shopping Center,’ “It goes through the parking lot in the ‘Village’ and then goes right straight through the building at the ‘Aquarium.”
Lawmakers from Southeastern Connecticut are being overwhelmed by opponents. Sen. Paul Formica (R-Niantic) saying, “It’s opposition everywhere from the environmentalists because it barrels right through some very sensitive areas, historical homes and districts.”
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Proposed alternative routes for the bypass of the old shoreline track face just as much opposition. “That line could change a mile to two miles. It could affect businesses on the other side of the highway. It could affect other residents that are in that two mile stretch,” added Regan.
Governor Malloy has said he favors upgrading the existing rail line. The federal government can’t do this without permits and rights of way and the support and approval of the State of Connecticut. The Governor called the plan ‘misguided.’
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Opponents are planning a protest rally at the “Olde Mystick Village” shopping center next to the aquarium on Saturday, February 11 from 10:00 a.m. to Noon.