Shoreline residents concerned about possible rail expansion

(WTNH/ Kent Pierce)

GUILFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– Coastal communities are concerned about a shoreline rail expansion. People living in Branford and Guilford have heard the federal government wants to double the tracks that are there from two to four. Will that mean widening the right of way, taking property, knocking down houses? Nobody seems to know.

A lot of towns in the northeast were built around the train tracks, that’s how important train travel was to the communities. So this federal plan to widen and change the train tracks in the northeast would affect homes and businesses in the heart of many cities and towns.

Folks who live near the train tracks in Guilford are worried. They are worried because they know the FRA – the Federal Railroad Administration – is planning to do something with these tracks, they just don’t know exactly what.

“The public hasn’t been engaged and the public doesn’t know what’s going on and local officials don’t know what’s going on,” said Gregory Stroud of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation.

“If there is communication its from the communities who are both frightened and upset and confused,” said Guilford resident Rob Vasour.

The FRA is porposing an overhaul of the northeast corridor and the reason is, as fast as the Acela train is, the FRA wants to make its trip from Boston to Washington, DC 80 minutes shorter. to do that, they want to put another two tracks between Branford and Guilford, which means widening the right of way…doesn’t it?

“That’s the problem, we don’t know, and they won’t tell you,” Vasour said. “It’s hard to tell how much of an impact, whether it’s going to be through your house, right up to your backdoor.”

So far, the exact impact is all speculation, and it will take years to plan and execute a project involving hundreds of miles of track, and well over $100 billion, but there is already one impact they are feeling in Guilford, and that is on the real estate market.

“It starts to affect property values, and we’ve heard this already in Guilford, where there have been some people already questioning, should we buy a property near the tracks?” Stroud said.

Complaining is one strategy. It already worked in Old Lyme. The plan had been for a new bridge across the Connecticut River, and new tracks through the middle of town. After packed community meetings full of people arguing against the proposal, the plan is now to build a tunnel. Even that could damage the environment, which is another concern in Guilford.

“Most of the houses in this area in Guilford and Branford are on wells, and what every they would have to do to create these expanded tracks would involve a tremendous amount of blasting and ecological damage,” explained Guilford resident James Harris.

The FRA says the planned changes will reduce delays throughout the northeast corridor. They are going over thousands of public comments before releasing updated plans.

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