Tri-State joined several transportation, environment, civic and business groups in asking Connecticut Governor Rell to fast track the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield commuter rail line on Tuesday. The coalition was joined at the press conference by House Speaker-Elect Chris Donovan (D-Meriden), whose district would be served by the line, and current Speaker James Amman (D-Milford), in calling for quick approval of the project that would add commuter service from New Haven to Springfield, Mass., stopping in nine other municipalities along the way, including Hartford.
According to the groups, fast-tracking the project to get initial service running within two years will help revitalize Connecticut’s struggling economy by providing short and long term jobs, help reduce the number of cars on Connecticut’s roads and promote transit-oriented development and mixed-income housing in towns along the rail corridor. The groups called for immediate action to get initial service operating as a first step towards full-scale commuter rail between New Haven, Hartford and Springfield.
Currently, the state is allocating 2 years for the Environmental Assessment, a process that should take less than 12 months in any case, and much less in this case where transit has operated in the corridor for decades. In their preliminary study, consultants for ConnDOT found none of the potential issues — noise, takings, wetlands impacts, etc. — that could be expected in a new rail project. So one wonders why so much delay seems to be built into the process, especially when having the project “shovel ready” in the near term could bring in federal stimulus money.
Kevin Nursick, a ConnDOT spokesman, responded to the groups by saying that Connecticut was asking Amtrak to run commuter service until the state’s plan is ready. He told the New Haven Register that the state does not view funding as a major obstacle to the project and suggested that the timeline could be moved up by scheduling station improvements after the trains are up and running.
Other groups calling for the prioritization of the line include Connecticut Fund for the Environment, Regional Plan Association, ConnPIRG, Environment Connecticut and the Connecticut Business and Industry Association.