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A controversial rail bypass is stopped in its tracks

WTNH.com Staff - NEW LONDON, Conn. (WTNH)-- The Federal Railroad Administration made a big announcement about the shoreline corridor midday Wednesday.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy is commending the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) decision on the NEC Future program for responding to his consistent urging to focus on upgrading and maintaining the Northeast Corridor (NEC) in a "state of good repair" and postponing consideration of any new alignment of the tracks through Connecticut.

The Federal Railroad Administration has developed a vision for the future of the Northeast Corridor and issued a decision that provides a path forward for expanding capacity and improving performance of the existing railroad. They have responded directly to requests made by the State of Connecticut to enable significant and necessary investments to address an estimated $38 billion backlog in state-of-good-repair assets, and we thank them for their consideration of our concerns."

This is very good news for folks in Southeastern Connecticut. Many were very upset because the bypass would have brought high speed trains through quiet neighborhoods in Old Lyme and even through Olde Mistick Village and Mystic Aquarium.

"Nobody wanted it," said Courtney LaBatte, the manager of the Garden Specialties shop in Olde Mistick Village. "Not anybody who lived here. The only people who were for this option were people who were coming from Massachusetts and they were taking the train anyways."

The Federal Railroad Administration was considering moving the tracks inland from Old Saybrook to Kenyon, Rhode Island. That would have meant the new tracks could have displaced and disrupted people's homes and businesses along the way.

Related: Shoreline residents concerned about possible rail expansion

The goal of the 30 mile bypass was to lessen the travel time along the corridor from New York to Boston by 20 minutes by allowing trains to avoid speed-killing curves, grade crossings, and unreliable movable bridges seen along the shoreline.

"Maybe a ten to twenty minute cut off time to take off of their transportation," said LaBatte. "To me that's not worth uprooting everybody's everyday life."

"I am thrilled I am just so happy," said Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder.

Old Lyme residents came out in full force to oppose the bypass which would have cut through the heart of their town. Reemsnyder was happlily surprised the FRA removed the bypass from its plan to improve rail service.

"I spoke with the FRA administrator in December of 2016 who made it clear that one town is not going to change a whole plan," said Reesnyder.

"Democracy works," said Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut. "Who knew? These voices were heard."

A chorus of concern leading to change.

"Now the decision making is where it belongs which is in the hands of state and local officials that understand the region and understand the geography far better than engineers working out of DC," said Congressman Joe Courtney, D-Connecticut.


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