STAMFORD, Conn. — The Northeast Corridor's rail system should be vastly upgraded — but a new plan would come at the cost of relocating many local homeowners and businesses, said a Connecticut senator and Stamford's mayor.
The Federal Railroad Administration unveiled the major proposal recently that calls for big changes from Washington, D.C., to Boston to improve high-speed rail.
"The devil is in the details because cutting through historically significant or environmentally sensitive areas or costly routes will doom this project," U.S. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said a press conference with Stamford Mayor David Martin.
The proposed new two-track railroad would deviate from part of its current route through Fairfield County — in particular in Greenwich, Stamford and Norwalk — and instead run parallel to Interstate 95.
"Some of these maps are very troubling or even alarming in cutting through downtown Stamford somewhat distant from the present tracks," Blumenthal said. "The report talks about elevated structures and new tracks on embankments to I-95. Any interference with traffic on I-95 is a non-starter."
Improving rail transportation is an important economic driver for Stamford and for lower Fairfield County, Martin said.
"That is important to Stamford and it's important to lower Fairfield County," Martin said. "I think this is a good move in terms of its first phase. It's not without its issues that still need to be addressed."
Martin said he's happy that the proposed route would stress the importance of Stamford, but said he wanted to ensure that homes and businesses wouldn't be disrupted if the plan goes ahead.
"There are some things that give me pause for consideration," he said, questioning whether the train station would need an extra platform and whether eminent domain would be needed to take some properties.
That is a concern shared by Blumenthal, who welcomes the proposed investment in the rails. But he said he has concerns about the proposed changes in the route and the impact it would have on residents and the environment.
"The right route at the right time will make this investment successful," he said. "If the FRA and the authorities in Washington choose a route that diverges or realigns the present tracks in a way that is costly, environmentally harmful, historically damaging they will be stopped."
The NEC Future would introduce high-speed rail to the Northeast Corridor from Washington, D.C., to Boston.
It would include new tracks between New York City and Bridgeport, incorporate the New Haven to Hartford to Springfield line and add a tunnel under Old Lyme.
The $135 billion plan would take decades to complete.
Click here for more information on the NEC Future Plan.