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UPDATED: Feds, in long range plan, look to add a Norwalk rail line

The green dotted line shows where the Federal Rails Administration (FRA) think the railroad line of the future should be.

The green dotted line, in this map from the Federal Rails Administration Tier 1 Final Environmental Impact Statement, shows where the FRA thinks the railroad line of the future should be. Red circles are hazardous materials.

Updated, 6 p.m. Dec. 20: Information from FRA. (Story was originally published at 1:51 a.m. Dec. 19.)

NORWALK, Conn. – A federal plan to increase rail service in the Northeast corridor would add a rail line through Norwalk and it’s immediately surrounding communities.

State officials say it will never happen.

“The FRA’s (Federal Railroad Administration’s) report released today continues to ignore strong and consistent concerns expressed by the State of Connecticut and local citizens about the eastern shoreline realignment plans. … By continuing to include plans to bypass the current route, the FRA has enflamed impacted communities stretching from Fairfield County to Stonington where the proposed alignment will eviscerate neighborhoods, historic landmarks, and real estate values,” a statement released Friday by Gov. Dannel Malloy, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Vernon) said.

“The Federal Railroad Administration announced today a final preferred route for new, dedicated high speed rail routes in Connecticut,” Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation Executive Director Daniel Mackay said in an email. “Today’s release of routes and the Final EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) allow the FRA to finalize this study in mid-January, before the start of the new Trump administration. Finalization of this plan provides the FRA and Amtrak with a minimum 25-year project authorization window for the route finalized in this plan, subject to funding.”

The plan’s goal is to improve connections and reliability, eliminate chokepoints and “dramatically increase the number of trains and improve the railroad’s performance,” FRA states on the project’s website, NEC Future. This would involve having four tracks along most of the route.

“Trains would operate frequently with improved connections, greatly enhancing travel options. Travel time would also improve. This vision reflects public preferences and is supported by the FRA’s analysis,” the website states.

Mackay included a link to an appendix that contains route maps.

fra-rr-plan

Connecticut maps begin on page 22, Map 14 and run through page 28, Map 20 for the coastal route. The map for Norwalk is on page 27.

Mackay said:

“There are major potential impacts to Fairfield and New London County communities. The proposed coastal bypass between Old Saybrook, Old Lyme, and Stonington, is included in the plan, with the modification of a tunnel rather than aerial crossing of the Connecticut River.

“Additional concerns for CT communities include new corridors for high speed trains in Greenwich, Cos Cob (new river crossing), Riverside, the west and east sides of Stamford, Norwalk (new river crossing), Westport (new river crossing) and then fifty miles of new route starting in Old Saybrook.

“Also included in the plan is a New Haven to Springfield MA spur that will looks to stay within the existing Amtrak corridor that is already being upgraded for MetroNorth service. I’ve heard – but not yet seen documentation – that this FEIS proposes electrification of that corridor.”

On Tuesday, FRA spokesman Matthew Lehner answered an email asking about the plans. He said:

“The Tier I is illustrative and does NOT specify the exact location of the tracks. The location and construction type of new segments (underground, overhead, at-grade) will be determined in future, more detailed (Tier 2) project studies with local and state governments–if they want to move forward as noted above.
“The representative route for this new segment is depicted as an alignment roughly parallel to I-95 through Greenwich, Stamford, and Norwalk and then reconnects with the existing NEC in Westport, CT west of the existing Greens Farms station. (Chapter 4, page 4-90)
“As with all new segments, this new segment would be in addition to the existing NEC.”

Page 4-90 states:

“New, two-track infrastructure, continuing from Westchester County, NY, through coastal Fairfield County, parallel to I-95 typically on embankment or aerial structure through Greenwich, Stamford, and Norwalk; terminating in Westport west of Greens Farms rail station.”

fra-rr-preferred-alternatives

“We specifically asked FRA to limit the NEC Future Tier 1 EIS to identify a service and investment strategy to achieve state-of- good repair and maximize the capacity, frequency and speed of existing rail lines,” the state politicians said in their joint statement.

Blumenthal was emphatic at a Friday press conference that the plan will never be approved, CT News Junkie reports.

“As the FRA itself has confirmed, this new proposed alignment cannot ultimately receive the permits, rights of way and other critical elements without the support and approval of the State of Connecticut,” the statement said. “To this end, we will continue to do all we can to remove this bypass from the final FRA plan in order to provide our communities with the certainty they deserve. Should the FRA continue in its pursuit of its proposed alignment, we will work to ensure that Connecticut exercises every tool at its disposal at the state and federal levels to stop any effort to move forward with this misguided plan.”

The FRA is now in a 30-day waiting period and may amend its recommended alternative based on public feedback.

“The recommendation FRA released last week is just that – a recommendation for what FRA believes the Northeast Corridor could be in the future,” Lehner said. “In fact, it will now be up to states, cities and railroads to take next steps and decide whether to move forward with any specific projects. Each individual project, just like any other infrastructure project in this country, will require more review and more environmental studies, as well as significant funding.”

 

Original story:

NORWALK, Conn. – A federal plan to increase rail service in the Northeast corridor would radically change the way trains make their way through Norwalk.

State officials say it will never happen.

“The FRA’s (Federal Railroad Administration’s) report released today continues to ignore strong and consistent concerns expressed by the State of Connecticut and local citizens about the eastern shoreline realignment plans. … By continuing to include plans to bypass the current route, the FRA has enflamed impacted communities stretching from Fairfield County to Stonington where the proposed alignment will eviscerate neighborhoods, historic landmarks, and real estate values,” a statement released Friday by Gov. Dannel Malloy, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Vernon) said.

“The Federal Railroad Administration announced today a final preferred route for new, dedicated high speed rail routes in Connecticut,” Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation Executive Director Daniel Mackay said in an email. “Today’s release of routes and the Final EIS (Environmental Impact Statement) allow the FRA to finalize this study in mid-January, before the start of the new Trump administration. Finalization of this plan provides the FRA and Amtrak with a minimum 25-year project authorization window for the route finalized in this plan, subject to funding.”

The plan’s goal is to improve connections and reliability, eliminate chokepoints and “dramatically increase the number of trains and improve the railroad’s performance,” FRA states on the project’s website, NEC Future. This would involve having four tracks along most of the route.

“Trains would operate frequently with improved connections, greatly enhancing travel options. Travel time would also improve. This vision reflects public preferences and is supported by the FRA’s analysis,” the website states.

Mackay included a link to an appendix that contains route maps.

fra-rr-plan

Connecticut maps begin on page 22, Map 14 and run through page 28, Map 20 for the coastal route. The map for Norwalk is on page 27.

Mackay said:

“There are major potential impacts to Fairfield and New London County communities. The proposed coastal bypass between Old Saybrook, Old Lyme, and Stonington, is included in the plan, with the modification of a tunnel rather than aerial crossing of the Connecticut River.

“Additional concerns for CT communities include new corridors for high speed trains in Greenwich, Cos Cob (new river crossing), Riverside, the west and east sides of Stamford, Norwalk (new river crossing), Westport (new river crossing) and then fifty miles of new route starting in Old Saybrook.

“Also included in the plan is a New Haven to Springfield MA spur that will looks to stay within the existing Amtrak corridor that is already being upgraded for MetroNorth service. I’ve heard – but not yet seen documentation – that this FEIS proposes electrification of that corridor.”

 

“We specifically asked FRA to limit the NEC Future Tier 1 EIS to identify a service and investment strategy to achieve state-of- good repair and maximize the capacity, frequency and speed of existing rail lines,” the state politicians said in their joint statement.

Blumenthal was emphatic at a Friday press conference that the plan will never be approved, CT News Junkie reports.

“As the FRA itself has confirmed, this new proposed alignment cannot ultimately receive the permits, rights of way and other critical elements without the support and approval of the State of Connecticut,” the statement said. “To this end, we will continue to do all we can to remove this bypass from the final FRA plan in order to provide our communities with the certainty they deserve. Should the FRA continue in its pursuit of its proposed alignment, we will work to ensure that Connecticut exercises every tool at its disposal at the state and federal levels to stop any effort to move forward with this misguided plan.”

The FRA is now in a 30-day waiting period and may amend its recommended alternative based on public feedback.

 

 

11 comments

Sara Sikes December 19, 2016 at 9:19 am

Will CT approve any plan to bring our mass transit into the 20th century as compared to other modern industrialized nations?

Dorothy Mobilia December 19, 2016 at 10:39 am

Nancy, it looks to me that the plan calls for a second line through Norwalk, north of the present Metro-North line. And of course, a new river crossing. The view I looked at was on Map 15 (p. 23). We definitely need a clarification. And think of the potential impact on local plans for renovation and improvements, not just rail. I heard of the changes in East Lyme several months ago, and that little town brought out some 500 protesters at a meeting held to explain the plan. Is that why we have not been informed until now about this new fed proposal? Modern high-speed trains sound like a good idea, but there ought to be a better way than to eviscerate historic communities.

EveT December 19, 2016 at 10:54 am

If this plan is followed, the $1Bn Walk Bridge would become a white elephant, no?
I understand the strategy of building rail lines further inland to increase resilience against rising sea levels and coastal erosion, but don’t we need to coordinate both short-term and long-term investments to avoid wasting money on infrastructure that will be obsolete before it earns out the investment?

Piberman December 20, 2016 at 11:07 am

Awaiting City Hall’s response to the Fed’s Plan. Also response to the Walk Bridge. Add in Manresa and lots of work for City Hall. Could be an opportunity to display “management skills”.

(Editor’s note: the city’s public response to the state’s environmental assessment/evaluation, a legal process, is documented in several stories. http://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2016/12/conndot-promises-to-work-with-norwalk-for-successful-walk-bridge-reconstruction/ http://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2016/12/conndot-promises-to-work-with-norwalk-for-successful-walk-bridge-reconstruction/ http://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2016/11/norwalk-seeks-more-thought-by-conndot-in-walk-bridge-project/ http://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2016/11/norwalk-organizes-for-conndot-walk-bridge-hearing/
The actual document created by Norwalk is 109 pages long. http://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/NorwalkcommentstoEAEIE.pdf)

jlightfield December 20, 2016 at 4:02 pm

I think it is important to note that Parson Brinkerhoff is the consultant on both the Walk Bridge and the FRA plan. It is weird that somehow this FRA plan advanced without Parson’s refoerecing it in the Walk Brodge project and notifying anyone in Norwalk that there was a significant change in the proposed rail line.

PIBERMAN December 20, 2016 at 11:42 pm

Think of all the homes that would be confiscated in the northern part of the City with a new rail line. That would make the City’s already punitive property taxes fall on even fewer home owners. And devalue homes near the new rail line. Looks like a winning solution to everyone except homeowners !

jlightfield December 21, 2016 at 5:16 am

OMG I am so tired of clueless angry old guys incessantly pontificating about the future of Norwalk when they barely have any grasp of any facts, reality or an ability to look at a map and see a proposed train line that runs along the I-95 corridor (presumably in the State ROW.)

Ed December 21, 2016 at 3:41 pm

Driverless cars will make traveling on the road much quicker and safer. Commuters will opt to not use the train when widespread adoption of driverless cars and busses occurs.

Mike Mushak December 23, 2016 at 7:24 pm

Ed, there will still be traffic congestion with driverless cars. You can only squeeze so many cars onto a road even if they are only 25 feet apart. Mass transit will always move more people around at lower cost and energy consumption.

Putting a modern high-speed line in the 95 corridor to connect major cities seems like a lot smarter use of our tax dollars than widening that highway which the state wants to do. LA just learned this lesson in stupidity after spending years and billions to widen a major freeway, only to see it get clogged as soon as it opened. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/20/us/los-angeles-drivers-on-the-405-ask-was-1-6-billion-worth-it.html?_r=0

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NancyOnNorwwalk.com was conceived as the place to go for Norwalk residents to get the real, unvarnished story about what is going on in and around their city. NancyOnNorwalk does not intend to be a print newspaper online; rather, it exists to pull the curtain back and shine a spotlight on how Norwalk is run and what is happening regarding issues that have an impact on taxpayers’ pocketbooks and safety. As an independent site, NancyOnNorwalk’s first and only allegiance is to the reader.

About Nancy

Nancy came to Norwalk in September 2010 and, after reporting on Norwalk for two years for another company, resigned to begin Nancy On Norwalk so she engage in journalism the way it was meant to be done. She is married to career journalist Mark Chapman, has a son, Eric (the artist and web designer who built this website), and two cats – a middle-aged lady and a young hottie who are learning how to peacefully co-exist.