In order for Amtrak to be competitive with airlines in the Northeast, they are looking to make huge improvements to the Northeast Corridor’s high-speed rail system. Amtrak, along with the Federal Railroad Administration, has a few proposals for improvements including relocating parts of the corridor. This upgrade will cost billions of dollars anyway you look at it. The current proposal is the most cost saving by keep the current route and improving track, adding additional tracks to congested locations and some route realignments. The plan also includes bringing more rail service to parts of Connecticut and Western Massachusetts outside of the Northeast Corridor project.

NEC Future Video
Federal Railroad Administration – November 6, 2014
An introduction to the NEC Future program.

From the FRA Study

The northern part of the NEC has planned right-of-way realignments in New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. One of the project’s proposed realignments will be a 50 mile stretch between Old Saybrook, CT and Kenyon, RI. Residents are not happy about this proposal cutting through residential areas and farmland. This improvement alone would take 20 minutes off the current travel time. This realignment would be used by Amtrak High Speed Acela as a bypass to the current route. As for Amtrak regional trains they would use the current route. On Wednesday, January 25, 2017 at 4PM, residents of the Rhode Island communities against the project hosted a planned demonstration at the State House in Providence, RI. At the same time just northwest of Providence in Springfield, MA the FRA hosted an event about the upcoming passenger rail infrastructure changes planned for the Northeast, including the ones for the Northeast Corridor.

Northeast Corridor Realignment

Springfield, MA
At the Springfield open house, people were able to view poster boards outlining the regional project. Springfield will be a hub to bring passenger rail service Connecticut and Western Massachusetts. The poster boards also outlined the upgrades to the Northeast Corridor. Visitors could ask any questions they may have about the project.

Northeast Corridor Realignment

Northeast Corridor Realignment

Northeast Corridor Realignment

Providence, RI – “Cooler and Warmer”
Meanwhile in Providence, a bus load of people from the Westerly, RI and surrounding area affected by Amtrak refinement held a demonstration against the project. Residents from the area are concerned about everything from the environmental impact to the fact that they just don’t want it. These types of projects always have opposition of “I don’t want that in my backyard”. I wasn’t able to attend both events, but I was able to get the idea of how the demonstration went by the reports on television and radio.
Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo was for the project but after the demonstration she is now against the realignment. It wasn’t surprising to see her pander to the voter base considering her current track record. Her administration is finally getting over a failed “Cooler and Warmer” tourism campaign and truck tolls among other things.

Rhode Island governor opposes Amtrak bypass route
WPRI-TV | Providence, RI – Jaunary 25, 2017

Northeast Corridor
Past High Speed Rail Proposal Route

NEC Alingnment

Project Push Back… Lost Opportunity?
The realignment may be a small price to pay compared to losing out on high speed rail servicing the Southwest corner of Connecticut and almost all of Rhode Island. Some alternative routes would bypass these areas completely, and Rhode Island is already having issues with keeping residences and businesses in the state as it is. The state could be in jeopardy of losing its high speed rail connection to major cities such as Boston, New York City, and Washington D.C. This is something I feel the state can’t afford to lose. I really hope the residents along the realignment and Amtrak/FRA can come to a compromise.

RI dodges a bullet: high-speed Amtrak won’t bypass Providence
WPRI-TV | Providence, RI – December 16, 2016
The FRA has unveiled a new proposal that eliminates a controversial plan that would have skirted Providence by running Boston-New York trains through Worcester and Connecticut instead.

Rail Travel is the Future!
I’ve said it in past blog posts: traveling by rail is the future. We need to embrace it. It will not only connect the country but it will help lessen our environmental impact by getting more cars off the roads and cutting down on pollution as well as saving some of our planet’s resources. A rail infrastructure will connect more cities and towns than any airline in the country. I understand sometimes these things come with a cost, but in some cases, like this one, the positives outweigh the negatives.

Learn more about the project: