NHHS Rail Project Clears Regulatory Hurdle

The New Haven-Hartford-Springfield corridor | Image: ConnDOT

Earlier this month, the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield (NHHS) rail project took a major step forward when the initiative’s lead federal agency cleared its tier one environmental assessment, which examined plans to dramatically improve train infrastructure from New Haven, Connecticut to Springfield, Massachusetts.

Tri-State has long supported the project, which would introduce true commuter rail to central Connecticut, double-tracking sections of the rail corridor and allowing trains to reach up to 110 miles per hour. ConnDOT anticipates 17 daily round trip trains between New Haven and Hartford in 2016 (13 of these will continue on to Springfield), and 25 daily round trips once all of the project’s construction is complete. There are currently between six and eight daily round trip trains in the corridor. NHHS is expected to create 8,090 jobs during construction, and will serve as a boon for transit-oriented development through the central Connecticut corridor.

The Federal Railway Administration’s “finding of no significant impact” (FONSI) statement [pdf], which examined the project as a whole, clears the way for more local, site-specific tier two environmental analyses. The tier two analyses must be completed for proposed new stations, among other things.

Fortunately for central Connecticut commuters, few regulatory hurdles remain for several sections of the project. In some cases, the FRA granted a “categorical exclusion determination” where environmental impacts would be negligible; in others, the tier one statement was comprehensive enough to meet tier two analysis requirements.

Wherever the FRA has deemed tier two environmental analysis unnecessary (and where it has granted categorical exclusion determinations), state and federal agencies should fast track construction. Nearly four years ago, Tri-State, environmental groups, business groups, and elected officials called for this very thing.

When completed, the rail corridor will seamlessly integrate with CTfastrak, Connecticut’s first rapid transit system, creating a robust regional transit network.

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