NEW LONDON, Conn. (WTNH) — Riding the rails in southeastern Connecticut usually means being on an Amtrak train but there is a study underway that looks at expanding Shore Line East which now goes from New Haven to New London.
The state Department of Transportation is looking at extending the passenger rail service north to Norwich and farther east to Westerly, Rhode Island.
“What the study is looking at is what it would take to get this done,” said Josh Morgan, Spokesperson for the CT Department of Transportation. “Bringing the freight rail lines up to the condition that can accommodate passenger rail. What kind of station needs would be required.”
Some say having a commuter rail line with more stops that are more frequent could help boost the local economy, especially with Electric Boat’s major expansion.
“We can’t build housing to fill the need that’s going to be required for the next twenty, twenty-five years so it’s going to be critical for transportation to kind of fill that gap,” said Felix Reyes, Director of Economic Development and Planning for the city of New London.
“We need to make it easier for tourists and everyone to come here,” said State Senator Heather Somers, (R) Groton.
She said Shore Line East is the most heavily subsidized rail service in the state, estimated at $55.28 per passenger trip, and while some at Wednesday night’s public meeting put on by the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council pointed out that ridership is low the Senator says there is potential to get more people onboard.
“If you changed it so you had more frequency, it was easier for commuters, there were more stops, almost like a light rail system through the shoreline towns I think you would see a big difference,” said Sen. Somers.
“Absolutely,” said Crystal Ross of New London. “Cause it would make it easier.”
Along with extending the service, the study also looks at adding new stations in Groton and Stonington so there would be more places to hop on and hop off.
The Department of Transportation’s study is expected to be complete next year.