HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A federal study has outlined a series of ambitious proposals that would overhaul Connecticut’s railroad system.
The report by the Federal Railroad Administration analyzes the possibility of high-speed rails, new routes and a rail tunnel under Long Island Sound, WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau reported.
Joe McGee, vice president of public policy and programs for The Business Council of Fairfield County, said the primary focus should be on a complete overhaul of the New Haven Line.
“That commuter rail service is what’s critical. That has to be improved,” he said. “It’s got to be more frequent, and it’s got to be faster.”
Connecticut’s projected cost of the federal rail overhaul of the Northeast Corridor would be prohibitive, critics say. They note the state lawmakers may soon be called into a special session to deal with a projected two-year budget deficit of more than a $1 billion.
The three alternatives studied by the FRA for the Northeast Corridor were compared to a No Action alternative that would maintain existing service and infrastructure as ridership grows. To give an idea of the scope and expense involved, the No Action alternative would cost roughly $20 billion over the next 25 years, while the most ambitious alternative, which includes the underwater rail tunnel, would cost about $290 billion, federal rail officials said on a conference call Monday.
For context, they said that, given the fact that the Northeast Corridor region produces one-fifth of the nation’s gross domestic product, an unexpected loss of the NEC for one day could cost the nation nearly $100 million in transportation-related impacts and productivity losses.
The 457-mile corridor is the busiest commuter rail line in the country and the site of regular and often lengthy delays on Amtrak and regional lines such as NJ Transit, due to 100-year-old infrastructure and crowded tracks.
The three alternatives under consideration came from an original list of 98 that was winnowed to 15. Federal officials will hold public hearings on the plans in December and January. By next spring they will choose a preferred alternative for final environmental review.
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