Plans for High-Speed Northeastern Rail Line Draw Concern
By Richard Kaufman
On Wednesday afternoon at Town Hall, Greenwich residents and several elected officials sat down for a discussion on the proposed high-speed rail line that would run between Boston and Washington, D.C. The presentation, lead by Greg Stroud on behalf of the CT Trust for Historic Preservation, focused mainly on a section of proposed rail-line called the “New Rochelle to Greens Farms Bypass.”
The entire project, called NEC Future, would offer a two hour and 45 minute commute from Boston to the nation’s capital at nearly 220 miles per hour. The majority of the 29 mile New Rochelle to Greens Farms Bypass, especially in the Greenwich area, would feature aerial structures—two-track rail lines 40 to 60 feet in the air—following along I-95, along with embankments and at-grade structures.
Stroud pointed out that the plan wasn’t proposed by happenstance; there is a major problem in the state, especially in the New York metro area and Fairfield County, with transit. By 2030, capacity on Metro North and Amtrak will double.
“We have a problem,” Stroud said. “Whether you’re for this or against this, we have a fundamental problem.” Stroud also said that because Connecticut and Fairfield County are for the most part made up of small cities, high-speed rail is not a natural fit for the state.
Funding for the project will be piecemeal, with 80 percent coming from the federal government and 20 percent from the state. “That’s the reason to take [this plan] seriously. When you look and you say this is unaffordable, if it’s unaffordable at 20 percent, it’s really unaffordable at 100 percent. We have real problems, how are we going to fund them?”
Attendees voiced concerns about the project, ranging from safety to the placement of the route. Several residents asked about building a rail-line up the 84 corridor rather than I-95.
“Any regional cooperation that does not serve the needs of Stamford… that’s not good for Fairfield County,” Stroud said, noting that Stamford and New Haven would be the primary beneficiaries of the project. “The reason this I-84 route was likely knocked off the table is in part because they want to send it to New Haven and to Stamford.” Stroud also said that the route and terrain along 84 wouldn’t be conducive to building a high-speed rail.
One concern in Greenwich would be the rail’s intrusion on the famed Bush-Holley House, which sits less than 200 feet from I-95. But high-resolution maps of the route have not been made public, and Stroud urged residents and elected officials to request the maps to understand the plan better.
“Our sense at this moment is [the rail line] is more likely to run on the water-side of 95. It’s hard to imagine some of the impacts in Riverside, Darien. It’s part of the reason why the maps are so important, just to get a sense of them,” he said, saying that there could be the potential impacts from the rail line affecting block-wide swaths of neighborhoods.
Residents also asked Stroud what the best course of action is going forward in order to stop the project from coming to fruition in future decades. “The best way to stop the project is not to stop it, but to find better solutions,” he replied. “To slow down before there’s momentum for this project—but also to seriously engage and find better solutions for Connecticut.”
For more on this story and the proposed high-speed rail line, see next week’s Greenwich Sentinel.