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Plan to Speed Up Amtrak’s Northeast Route Faces Opposition in Small Towns

January 18, 2017 By Staff
Plan to Speed Up Amtrak’s Northeast Route Faces Opposition in Small Towns

Against the will of small town residents, Amtrak is planning a “new northeastern route” with as many as 110 trains a day going through historic Old Lyme, Connecticut.

Against the will of small town residents, Amtrak is planning a “new northeastern route” with as many as 110 trains a day going through historic Old Lyme, Connecticut:

To get it done, however, it is going to first have to get through Old Lyme, Conn., where opposition is strong to the project that would bring four new track lines and as many as 110 trains a day under its historic downtown in a tunnel.

In 2016, the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) proposed a “preferred route” through Connecticut’s small towns, leaving local communities outraged:

The FRA’s selection of the favored hybrid route, even as the agency spent months collecting more than 3,000 public comments and other input on three other alternatives, has sparked outrage among those who had hoped the agency would abandon its plans for a controversial routing option that would run through Old Lyme on its way east. They say that bypass route would destroy the town’s historic legacy.

As Amtrak’s plans come to light, some Connecticut leaders are eager to fund and expand new public transit projects, but many have questions about the state of Connecticut’s existing infrastructure. Take CT Fastrak, for instance:

State officials who oversee Connecticut’s Fastrak admit that they can’t say with certainty whether the less than year-old bus rapid transit system has been making enough revenues to cover operating costs. Transportation Commissioner James Redeker says that’s not a bad thing, and added that the system wasn’t designed to differentiate ticket or pass purchases from Fastrak to other CT Transit Buses.

As the Yankee Institute has laid out, changes need to be made in prioritizing projects and reducing administrative cost of infrastructure projects. Also, prioritizing maintenance of existing infrastructure:

A report issued by the Reason Foundation ranked all the states based on the condition and cost-effectiveness of their roads. Connecticut ranked 44th for its total state spending of $470,399 per mile of road. The national average was $162,000 per mile. There is no evidence the state is getting much value for this additional spending. Connecticut does have highly traveled roads and brutal winters, both of which likely play a role in driving up the cost of maintenance. However, the biggest cost-driver is the state’s huge administrative expenses. The state spends $77,000 per mile on administrative costs, which is the second highest amount per mile in the nation, and more than seven times the national average of $10,579 per mile.

As Connecticut’s cyclical budget crisis looms, new taxes haven’t been ruled out. As a result, Connecticut’s infrastructure failures are unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. This leaves small town communities facing new projects, instead of repairing crumbling existing infrastructure.