Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Update -- Land Use Court Bill Passes House

It isn't a big bill, but it's a good start. An Act Concerning Land Use Appeals passed in the House today. With your help, this is just the beginning! Take time to encourage your legislator to support the following priority bills.

Reach your legislator by calling during business hours:
Senate Democrats: 860/240-8600
Senate Republicans: 860/240-8800
House Democratic Leadership: 860/240-8500
House Democratic Rank and File: 860/240-8585
House Republican Leadership: 860/240-8700
House Republican Rank & File: 860/340-8787


HB 6467 An Act Concerning Smart Growth and Plans of Conservation and Development = 1. defines smart growth, 2. establishes smart growth principles, and requires their full integration in state economic, development, land preservation, and transportation plans and 3. local and 4. regional conservation and development plans.
House Calendar 376

HB 6464 An Act Concerning Coordinated Preservation and Development = requires the Responsible Growth Steering Council to screen farmland preservation, open space, historic preservation and brownfield grant-funded projects for compliance with smart growth principles.
House Calendar 374

HB 5267 An Act Concerning the Use of Small Town Economic Assistance Program Funds to Convert Prime Farmland to Nonagricultural Uses = prohibits STEAP grants from converting prime farmland to any other use.
House Calendar 318

HB 6097 An Act Concerning Brownfields Development Projects = 1. allows brownfield remediation and redevelopment of historic mills within the floodplain so long as a) new development is within the existing footprint, b) residential units are above the floodplain; 2. establishes a remediation timeframe and 3. relieves some liability.
House Calendar 238

HB 6585 An Act Concerning Regionalism = allows a portion of the sales tax to be shared on a regional basis so long as the regions meet criteria including adopting a regional comprehensive economic development strategy.
House Calendar 309

1000 Friends also supports: SB1033 An Act Establishing a Tax Credit for Green Buildings; HB 6466 An Act Concerning Projects of Regional Significance; HB6588 An Act Concerning Training for Local Land Use Commissioners; HB 6387 An Act Concerning Small Town Economic Assistance Program; SB 735 An Act Concerning Bicycle and Pedestrian Access.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Smart Growth and Transportation Bill Dies

HB6465 An Act Concerning Smart Growth and Transportation Planning died in the Transportation Committee today.

Thanks to the five yes votes: Rep. Caruso, Rep. Fontana, Rep. McCluskey, Rep. Morin and Rep. Sayers.

The bill would have required the Transportation Strategy Board to screen all transportation bond requests for compliance with smart growth and report to the bond commission its findings. It would have also required the TSB to prepare a capital investment plan for transportation.

The bill was flawed. Still, the policy objectives are valid -- transparency, accountability, and strategically targeting our transportation dollars.

The House and Senate head into session later this week.

1000 Friends has the following priority bills: 6097 An Act Concerning Brownfield Development, 6464 An Act Concerning Coordinated Preservation and Development, 6467 An Act Concerning Smart Growth and Plans of Conservation and Development, and 6585 An Act Concerning Regionalism.

In addition, we support the following smart growth bills: SB 384, HB5267, HB 6387, HB6463, HB 6466, HB 6588, HB 6589, SB 888, SB 1033.

For more details, or contact us at INFO at or call 860/523-0003.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Response to Recent Claims about the New Britain to Hartford Busway

Response to Recent Claims about the New Britain to Hartford Busway
April 24, 2009. Lyle Wray, Capitol Region Council of Governments

Here are some responses to claims made in a recent email with attachments of an opinion piece and a letter to the editor. More information is on the CRCOG website at

Claim: This New Britain-Hartford Busway project proposal has unmitigable, extreme adverse impacts on the future of rail on the NHHS corridor and in Greater Hartford region and the rail transportation community needs to organize to strongly oppose & kill this project for once and for all.

Comment: The busway and commuter rail projects are compatible. Congestion on Interstate 84 west of downtown Hartford is about 50% of the entire traffic congestion in the region. After a decade long process that began with a careful consideration of alternatives, the busway was deemed the best alternative to serve transit needs and one that provides great flexibility with transit users getting a one seat ride from a large area between New Britain to downtown Hartford. Commuter rail service every 40 minutes from Springfield to New Haven is complemented by busway service every three to five minutes from west of New Britain to Hartford and downtown areas.

Claim. It takes away invaluable right-of-way from 5 miles of the Amtrak corridor between Newington Junction and Hartford Union Station. Its the equivalent of two railroad tracks. In other words it diminishes the potential for a 4 track corridor between Newington Junction and Hartford Union Station. As anyone can see Hartford Union Station is designed as a 4-track terminal even though there is only one operable low level platform. A rail corridor will re-build all 4 tracks - that's what all, but 4 miles (1 track was torn out by ConnDOT in the vicinity of the Milford Station) of the 72-mile New Haven Line Corridor has.

Comment. Both uses can be accommodated in the current right of way which has been a major element of the design process.

Claim. As the NHHS corridor is now a Federally designated high speed rail corridor & the Obama administration has shown great interest in funding high-speed rail, now is the time to plan for investments to upgrade Connecticut's NHHS rail corridor, not dismantle it .

Comment. The busway will not lead to dismantling the commuter/intercity rail corridor or degrading it in any way. Again, the design process for the busway project has insured that high speed rail can be accommodated in the corridor.

Claim: The busway project is contrary to Commissioner Joe Marie and C-DOT's "fix it first" policy. The busway is nothing more than a new 9.4 mile road project (with bus stops) designed exclusively for buses.

Comment. Busways are a major way to move transit projects forward in the US and around the world. Recently voters in Los Angeles voted local funds to double the size of the very successful Orange bus rapid transit line and busways are seen as a cost-effective solution for transit services in many contexts.

Claim. The busway is expensive by road building standards - the New Britain-Hartford busway most recent cost estimate is approximately $60 million per mile. Double tracking the 9.4 miles alignment would cost much less per mile.

Comment: Double tracking the 9.4 mile corridor will not result in the same benefit as building the busway. And in fact, busways are generally a fraction the cost of equivalent rail alternatives and offer great flexibility in both gathering transit passengers from a wider area and dropping them in a series of stops in central business districts. This type of service is extremely effective for a region with medium density, like Hartford. The commuter rail project will serve longer distance trips.

Claim: The busway project grabs 4.4 miles of state-owned double-track railroad right-of-way known as the New Britain Secondary (from Newington Junction to New Britain), which if built would cut off direct commuter and freight rail routing from Hartford to Waterbury. Currently freight trains need to traverse south to Berlin and then head north on the Berlin Branch to New Britain.

Comment. The Newington Secondary was a single track, abandoned by Conrail in 1985 and subsequently acquired by ConnDOT in 1993. There is no reason for a busway to be considered incompatible with freight use in the same corridor – the very successful Pittsburgh East Busway is located in the Norfolk Southern mainline corridor. The busway is compatible with described uses.

Claim: Developing the New Britain Secondary as a bus 'freeway' precludes the possibility of integrating the City of New Britain into the NHHS corridor. That translates to a real economic lost opportunity for revitalizing downtown New Britain, which is still the 4th most densely populated city (Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven) in Connecticut
If instead the New Britain Secondary was double tracked and an interlocking was constructed in New Britain that connected with the Berlin Branch NHHS trains could stop in downtown New Britain. Having NHHS train service stop in New Britain would be a big boost to the region and state's future. I'm not suggesting that the corridor go exclusively through New Britain, the parallel Amtrak corridor would still be utilized, especially for express trains heading south out of Hartford.

Opinion piece by CRCOG published in the Hartford Courant on the busway and commuter rail.

Busway and Commuter Rail: We Need Both Now!

Recent commentaries on the New Britain-Hartford Busway and the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Rail present these projects as competing alternatives – pick one and drop the other. In reality these projects are complementary pieces of a much needed rapid transit system for the Hartford metropolitan region that serve distinctly different needs. (See ‘Regional Transit Strategy’ adopted by the Capitol Region Council of Governments in 2001, )

The proposed busway is the region’s highest priority transit project serving our most congested traffic corridor – I-84 west of downtown Hartford. Designed to function like a light-rail line, it is a 9.4 mile bus-only facility built in a rail right-of way between New Britain and downtown Hartford. It includes 11 convenient stations, uniquely branded buses, and frequent service – one bus every 2-4 minutes during peak periods. It creates a fast and reliable transit alternative for suburban residents commuting to Hartford and for transit dependent residents of Hartford and New Britain. It serves these markets well due to the uncongested travel offered by the bus-only facility. Buses on congested I-84 simply cannot match the speed and reliability of travel afforded by the busway.

As a bonus, a busway can be much more flexible than rail. Buses will exit the busway in downtown Hartford and circulate directly to major employers. Commuter express buses from communities like Bristol and Waterbury can enter the busway in New Britain and bypass congested sections of I-84.

The bottom line on the busway compared to rail alternatives is that it achieves higher ridership at a lower cost. Previous studies compared the busway to rail options such as a Waterbury to Hartford rail service and found the busway more cost-effective. Simply put, if we are to build a regional rapid transit system, this is the best corridor to start with and the busway is the most cost-effective option to build.

The New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Commuter Rail project aims to improve and expand passenger rail service on the existing Amtrak line between New Haven and Springfield with peak service every 30 minutes. The existing 62-mile track would be upgraded, 4 new stations built, and trains added to provide more frequent and convenient service. Unlike the busway that serves the corridor west of Hartford, the commuter trains will serve towns north and south of Hartford. It will also serve a much larger geographic market and very different transportation functions.

The commuter rail project will link the three cities to one another, link all three to Bradley International Airport, and link the Hartford-Springfield area to New York City. The Gallis Report, an economic growth study completed in 1999, pointed out that Connecticut’s economic growth was being stymied due to an over-taxed transportation system and deteriorating connections to NYC and the global economy(report available at website above). Better connection by commuter rail to New York City is very important to strengthen an essential transportation and economic link to the nation’s largest center of commerce and the global economy.

Both projects will provide important but different economic benefits. The busway will reinforce downtown Hartford’s role as the region’s primary employment center by making it easier for employers to attract employees from west of Hartford. It will also provide economic development opportunities at each of the 11 stations along the busway. The commuter rail project also provides economic development opportunities at or near stations in Hartford and other communities such as Meriden, New Haven, Windsor, Enfield and Springfield. But the rail project offers economic benefits beyond the station areas. By improving connections to NYC and the global economy, it will benefit the entire regional economy as noted in the Gallis Report.
Both projects are needed to move the 2000 Regional Transit Strategy forward to reduce the region’s dependence on the automobile. The busway is now at a critical stage to do just that. Engineering work has completed semi-final design, and this summer the Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration will prepare the Full Funding Grant Agreement to commit the $275 million federal share. With a funding agreement so close, now is not the time to abandon the project. Now is the time to move forward with both the busway and the commuter rail.

Letter to the Editor, Waterbury Republican newspaper.

The New Britain-Hartford Busway
A recent editorial in the Waterbury Republican called for us to jettison the proposed New Britain-Hartford Busway. We disagree with the editorial’s conclusion that a busway is too costly and not justified.

The proposed busway is the first piece of a planned rapid transit system for the Hartford metro area. It will be 9.4 mile bus-only facility with 11 stations designed to function like a light-rail line. The busway utilizes a rail right-of way with a very straight and direct alignment between New Britain and downtown Hartford. The busway will include features that help to improve the quality of service for busway riders: safe and convenient stations, uniquely branded buses and stations, and easily understood routes and schedules.

The busway creates a fast and reliable transit alternative in the region’s most congested corridor. It greatly improves service for two large transit markets: suburban residents commuting to Hartford and transit dependent residents of Hartford and New Britain. The busway achieves this due to the direct routing and uncongested travel offered by the bus-only facility. Buses operating on freeways and local streets in mixed traffic simply cannot match the directness of routing, and the speed and reliability of travel afforded by the busway. It provides all the benefits of a light-rail investment (exclusive guideway, safe and comfortable stations, and fast reliable service) at a lower cost and added flexibility. The busway will save riders some 4,400 hours of travel time per day.

The flexibility of a busway will allow us to operate express buses from cities like Waterbury that will enter the busway in New Britain and travel non-stop to Hartford. By using the busway, the buses steer clear of the most congested sections of I-84, save time, and avoid the major service disruptions that accidents and other incidents on I-84 can cause.
The busway is expected to carry about 15,100 riders per weekday and attract 4,500 trips per day from automobiles. The busway will be effective at serving the traditional flow of passengers traveling inbound toward downtown as well a significant reverse flow. About 64 percent or 9,700 of the 15,100 daily riders will be traveling inbound. The other 35 percent (5,400) will be traveling in the reverse or outbound direction.

Cost & Cost-Effectiveness. The busway is projected to cost about $570,000,000 to construct, and is expected to require a subsidy of about $7,000,000 annually to operate. With an annualized total project cost of about $34,000,000 and annual travel time savings of 1,321,000 hours, the cost-effectiveness ratio is $24.21 per hour of time savings. This is a competitive cost-effectiveness ratio that qualifies it for funding through the Federal Transit Administration’s New Starts program, which will pay for half the cost or almost $270,000,000.

While costs have risen greatly since its inception almost 10 years ago, costs of all types of construction have also risen. The latest cost estimate of $570 million accounts for the inflation of the past 5 years. More importantly, it includes adjustments for future inflation through the end of construction in 2013.

Economic Development Benefits. Because the busway improves access to Hartford’s CBD, it will help the region realize its goal of strengthening the economic and cultural core of the region. By providing direct, fast, and reliable transit service to the region’s primary employment center, it will allow major employers near downtown stations to maintain good access to suburban labor markets. The busway will serve our most congested corridor and is the first piece of a planned rapid transit network centered on downtown that will reinforce its role as the region’s primary employment center. Busway stations will also provide redevelopment opportunities in other community centers such as downtown New Britain, Elmwood, and Parkville.

Conclusion. The Hartford region is almost entirely dependent on automobiles, trucks, and highways for goods and passenger transport. We need to reduce our dependency by developing alternatives such as a good regional rapid transit network. The New Britain – Hartford Busway is the first and most important piece of a planned network. It will serve our most congested corridor in the most cost-effective manner. Recent spikes in gasoline prices demonstrate the need to develop transit options, and the need to do so sooner rather than later.

Want transit? Testify you're willing to pay for it!

Connecticut's Special Transportation Fund is in the red and we need substantial investment to build a 21st Century Transit System. Come testify for electronic tolling and congestion pricing. 

The Transportation Strategy Board's public hearing on Electronic Tolling and Congestion Pricing study will be April 29th from 6 to 9 PM at Gateway Community College, New Haven and May 5th 6 to 9 PM at UCONN-Waterbury, Multipurpose Room 113-116, Waterbury. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Economic growth, hipsters and cities

When talking about smart growth, it is important to keep in mind that we are only focusing on saving energy and being green, but also on how to generate economic growth. Connecticut has not been all that successful at doing either in the last few years (specially seeing how the financial sectors was not actually that profitable after all), so we should remember than several of the proposed policies are pro-growth, not just protecting some environmental cause.

Of all the economic indicators of the past few years, one of the most worrisome is Connecticut´s failure to retain its creative class in the state. The creative class is a concept created by Richard Florida to explain why some metropolitan areas and regions grow and some stagnate. According to Florida, the cities that manage to attract a certain profile of people succeed: young, highly educated professionals with skills that focus on working on abstract ideas and creating new concepts.

Connecticut as a state is a huge factory of creative-class types; the centers of higher education produce a lot of highly skilled, really smart, really active professionals. Our big problem is they run away from the state as soon as they can, usually to places like Austin, San Francisco, New York or Chicago. The workforce that could be driving Connecticut to become a source of innovation leaves the suburban developments and big corporations behind, and move to work somewhere else.

Focus for a moment on where "creative class types" move to. Overwhelmingly they move to vibrant, dense, active cities; usually place with thriving cultural life, a wide range of lifestyle, housing choices and -in most cases- transit friendly. Cities that are tolerant, open, full of hipsters, start ups. That is, not the kind of choices available in most of Connecticut.

Do we need a state that caters to hipsters? Well, not exactly. What we need, however, is allow cities to offer this kind of choices. These creative environments only thrive in places with a wide variety of housing types, dense, mixed use development and a strong, solid backbone of higher education institutions, innovative businesses and low barriers of entry to invest and create. Some cities in Connecticut are trying, and so far succeeding somewhat, in building this (New Haven being the best example), but they operate under the fiscal straitjacket of the state´s property tax system.

Just remember that sometimes hipsters demand and follow somewhat pointless projects, that create much bigger returns (by attracting more creative types) that one may expect. Streetcars (and, up to a point, bike lanes) are the poster child of this; beloved toys that seem to attract quality development. Maybe New Haven and Stamford are being quite realistic, after all.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Make Earth Day = Smart Growth Day in the General Assembly

Dear Friends:
Make Earth Day Smart Growth Day in the General Assembly. Together, we can make this happen with these easy steps:
1. Contact House and Senate Leadership and ask them to bring the package of Smart Growth Bills to the Floor on Wednesday, April 22nd.

2. Then, contact your State Senator and your State Representative and ask them to vote YES on the smart growth bills – 6463, 6464, 6465, 6466, 6467, 6588, 6589 and 6595!

Senate leadership’s contact information is:;;

House leadership can be contacted at:

Find your
Legislators at:

Finally, please take a few moments to thank members of the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee for including $50 Million in the FY10 bond package they approved Thursday to provide municipalities incentives for regional cooperation.

Consistent advocacy gets results, keep up your good work!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


At the March 23rd meeting of the Governor's Stimulus Working Group, I asked if stimulus projects would be filtered against smart growth criteria (responsible growth criteria in Connecticut State-speak).

Chief of Staff Lisa Moody answered that 25 percent of the projects are required to be "green" and that staff from the Office of Responsible Growth is helping review the projects.

When I read the minutes of the meeting, my question had somehow morphed to "Is Connecticut committed to green?"

I got the real answer there, I fear.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Connecticut on the Move? Will This Plan get us There?

The Department of Transportation is seeking public comment on its Strategic Long-Range Transportation Plan 2009 – 2035. Public comments are due April 30 and should be addressed to: Mrs. Roxanne Fromson, Supervising Transportation Planner, Bureau of Policy and Planning, CONNDOT, PO Box 317546, Newington, CT 06131-7546, Roxanne dot Fromson at A copy of the plan is available on the DOT website at

The plan is a confusing document. On the one hand, the Department of Transportation should be commended for beautifully articulating an integrated and forward-thinking transportation vision. On the other hand, it’s hard to see how the priorities articulated in this plan line up with that vision. The plan specifies no benchmarks for measuring its progress toward its vision. It does not include a capital plan with prioritized projects, timeframes, status reports, sources of revenues and projected gaps. And it seems to indicate that the agency’s top priority is to muddle along as best as it can, given available and insufficient resources.

I highly recommend reading the text of this plan. It compellingly discusses the link between transportation policies/projects and land use, economic development, and climate change. It outlines the need for a transportation system that is balanced, multi-modal and safely carries the state’s citizens and businesses into the future. It argues convincingly that because transportation project time horizons span decades, the Department of Transportation must be forward-thinking. The plan’s text includes a strong transit thrust and articulates the benefits of transit oriented development. Clearly, Ms Fromson and those working with her know what they’re talking about.

Still, the plan falls short of providing a sense of leadership, direction and advocacy. It does not map out a proactive strategy to meet the needs it articulates. It does not call on State government and the people of Connecticut to support a specific set of initiatives to deliver us in 2035 with a strong economy, multi-modal mobility, and a healthy environment. Instead, it tells us that the agency’s priorities are to be safe and to hold steady.

Now, maybe that’s our fault. Only 98 people commented in the listening sessions the agency hosted on the plan. Maybe the department thought we don’t care about the quality of our transportation system or that we’re not willing to put our shoulders to the wheel and invest in 21st Century infrastructure. So, we have to show them they’re mistaken. Sit down today and write a comment to DOT, tell them we can’t wait until 2035 for proactive investments in bike and pedestrian access, transit and transit oriented development. We need to be making them now. Ask them to include in this strategic long-term plan a capital plan so we know where projects are in the queue, when they’ll be started and completed, what they cost, how we’re paying for them, and where we’re short. And thank them for so eloquently summarizing the issues at hand.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Rell and Patrick Write Call on Amtrak to Develop World-class Regional Rail

Read the complete article in the Springfield Republican then, thank Governor Rell!

N.E. governors tout rail plan MASSACHUSETTS -- The governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut have invited Amtrak to join the states in a project to expand commuter rail between Springfield and New Haven, Conn., The Republican reported. Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick and Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell wrote a letter this week to Joseph H. Boardman, president and CEO of Amtrak, following a meeting involving the governors and Amtrak officials. "The states of Connecticut and Massachusetts have a shared vision of developing a world-class regional rail commuter service along the Springfield Line corridor ... It is our hope that Amtrak shares this vision," the governors' letter states. Patrick and Rell also wrote in the three-paragraph letter, dated Tuesday, that the commuter line "will dramatically improve mobility in the region and improve life and lifestyles."

Michelle McAuliffe, March 26, 2009, The Republican

1000 Friends Joins New England Regional Rail Coalition

CONTACT: Tom Irwin, (603) 225-3060
Caitlin Inglehart, (617) 850-1755,
Heidi Green, (860) 523-0003,

$8 billion stimulus fund an important opportunity for New England

Concord, NH (March 30, 2009) The recently formed New England Regional Rail Coalition (NERRC) is urging the investment of economic stimulus dollars in rail infrastructure in New England, to improve and expand existing rail services for the region. On March 27, NERRC wrote U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood and other federal officials to inform them of important needs and investment opportunities in New England, as officials begin to decide how best to distribute $8 billion of economic stimulus funding dedicated to intercity and high speed rail service.

“A number of critical opportunities exist in the region to build a rail system that strengthens each of the New England states, and that better integrates the region not only with the rest of the country, but also with Canada,” said Tom Irwin, a senior attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation, a founding member of NERRC. “Our hope is that economic stimulus funds will be allocated to many of these projects, to begin the process of building a world class, sustainable transportation system for New England.”

The economic stimulus law – the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act – established a competitive grant program, with a total of $8 billion to be distributed to high-speed and intercity rail projects. NERRC’s letter identifies several key projects which, individually and collectively, will help integrate and strengthen New England’s transportation system.

With specific regard to Connecticut, the letter identifies establishment of commuter rail service between New Haven, CT and Springfield, MA. This project would bring much needed commuter rail service connecting New Haven, Hartford and Springfield, and transit oriented development opportunities to numerous downtowns in between. It also could provide important connections with Bradley International Airport, multiple links with Amtrak intercity service, and direct links to the existing Metro North and Shore Line East Commuter Rail in New Haven. The project would involve railroad right-of-way owned by Amtrak, and would complement north-south improvements for the Amtrak Vermonter rehabilitation project

“The New Haven Hartford Springfield Line is essential to building a more balanced transportation system in Connecticut,” said Heidi Green, President, 1000 Friends of Connecticut a coalition member. “It will serve a growing number of commuters, reduce traffic congestion and global warming pollution, and create important opportunities for transit-oriented development that will strengthen the state’s economy.”

The letter emphasizes that the economic stimulus legislation is a strong start, but that further significant investments will be necessary to develop a truly effective passenger- and freight-rail network for New England and the nation as a whole.

The New England Regional Rail Coalition is a new and growing collaboration of business interests, planning organizations, and transportation and environmental advocates which recognize the need and value of significantly greater investment in rail in the New England region. NERRC believes an enhanced and expanded rail network is essential to safeguarding New England’s economic competitiveness and reducing the economic, environmental and social costs associated with our region’s current, predominantly highway-oriented system.

For additional information regarding the Coalition and its work, including a copy of the Coalition’s letter to Secretary Lahood, please contact Tom Irwin at (603) 225-3060, ext. 15, or via email at


The Conservation Law Foundation ( works to solve the most significant environmental challenges facing New England. CLF’s advocates use law, economics and science to create innovate strategies to conserve natural resources, protect public health and promote vital communities in our region. Founded, in 1966, CLF is a nonprofit, member-supported organization with offices in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

1000 Friends of Connecticut ( is a statewide smart growth education and advocacy organization. It works to promote and shape growth to ensure a prosperous economy, a healthy natural environment, and distinctive, integrated and attractive communities while promoting choice in housing, transportation and jobs for ourselves and future generations.

The New England Regional Rail Coalition
Working To Advance Passenger and Freight Rail For A Stronger New England

March 27, 2009

Mr. Ray Lahood
Secretary of Transportation
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, D.C. 20590

Ms. Jo Strang
Acting Deputy Administrator
Federal Railroad Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, D.C. 20590

Dear Secretary Lahood and Acting Deputy Administrator Strang:

We, the New England Regional Rail Coalition (NERRC), write to express our strong
support for the investment of high-speed and intercity rail funding – soon to be available
pursuant the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) – in New England.
NERRC is a new and growing collaboration of business interests, planners, transportation
and environmental advocates, and current and former legislators who recognize the need
for significantly greater investment in passenger and freight rail in our region. We
believe an enhanced and expanded rail network is essential to safeguarding New
England’s economic competitiveness and reducing the significant economic,
environmental and social costs associated with our current, predominantly highwayoriented

The $8 billion to be made available for high-speed and intercity rail provides an
unprecedented opportunity to begin to build a more balanced, cleaner transportation
system. Investing a portion of those funds in New England will pay enormous dividends
by leveraging ongoing and much-needed investments in the Northeast Corridor, which
enjoys the highest ridership among Amtrak’s service, and which serves as the “spine” of
New England’s intercity passenger rail system. More specifically, ARRA funding for
Amtrak and enhancements to the Northeast Corridor could be strongly leveraged by
investing in New England projects that greatly enhance and build off this regional
“spine” in a way that better integrates (1) the New England states with one another, (2)
the New England region with other regions of the country, and (3) the northeast region
with Canada.

In particular, significant opportunities for intercity and high-speed rail in New England
include the following projects:

• Extension of Amtrak’s Downeaster service from Portland, Maine to Brunswick,
Maine, and high-speed rail service between Portland and Boston. The
Downeaster, with service connecting Portland and Boston, and serving ten cities and
towns in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, was the fastest growing Amtrak
service in FY 2008 and is projected to generate billions of dollars in transit-oriented
economic development. Building on this success, the Downeaster can be
significantly improved by extending service northward to Brunswick (at an estimated
cost of $30 million), thereby reaching one of Maine’s largest communities and greatly
enhancing access. In addition to this project, new and upgraded infrastructure on the
line between Portland and Boston – which has superior engineering for high-speed
purposes – will allow the Downeaster – at a relatively low cost for this project type –
to operate at speeds up to 110 mph, in furtherance of the Federal Railroad
Administration’s 2000 designation of the line as a high-speed rail corridor.

• Establishment of the N.H. Capitol Corridor passenger rail service in southern
New Hampshire on the Boston-to-Montreal high-speed-designated corridor.
This project would bring passenger rail service to cities in southern-central New
Hampshire, connecting this growing region of the state with Boston and providing a
much-needed alternative to crowded highways for the growing number of commuters
between New Hampshire and Massachusetts. With a projected cost of $300 million,
the N.H. Capitol Corridor project would include stations in Nashua, Bedford (with a
connection to Manchester-Boston Regional Airport), Manchester and Concord,
providing needed mobility options and significant transit-oriented development
opportunities. Because the N.H. Capitol Corridor service would be located on a
portion of the Boston-to-Montreal corridor designated by the Federal Railroad
Administration for high speed rail, this project also will serve as an important
investment in advancing a valuable high-speed rail connection between New England
and Canada.1

• Extension of Amtrak’s Ethan Allen service to Burlington, VT and points north.
This project would extend Amtrak’s existing Ethan Allen service – currently
connecting Rutland, VT with New York City – to Vermont’s largest city, Burlington.
It would re-establish a rail connection for Burlington’s downtown rail station – a
connection that was lost in 1953. The project involves the upgrade of a 45-mile
section of track at an anticipated cost of $45 million, and will bolster existing freight
rail operations. A related project would upgrade the New England Central
Railroad Tracks used by the Vermonter and enable the continuation of the Ethan
Allen beyond Burlington and the restoration of service from Vermont to Montreal.

• Rehabilitation of track infrastructure in western Massachusetts for Amtrak’s
Vermonter service. This project would involve the rehabilitation of The Boston-to-Montreal rail corridor, via New Hampshire and Vermont, was designated by the Federal
Railroad Administration as a high-speed rail corridor in 2000. A Phase I Feasibility and Planning Study, completed in 2002, determined that HSR on the corridor is expected to be compatible with other rail operations, that no institution or environmental issues preclude HSR, and that anticipated ridership warrants an evaluation of the benefits and costs of Boston-Montreal HSR.
infrastructure that parallels Interstate 91 through western Massachusetts’ Pioneer
Valley, greatly benefiting Amtrak’s Vermonter service between White River
Junction, VT and Springfield, MA. The Vermonter currently travels an extra 40 to 50
minutes to avoid inadequate track infrastructure. At an estimated cost of $25 million,
the project will make this detour unnecessary, allowing significant time- and fuelsavings,
as well as the restoration of rail service for two of the Pioneer Valley’s
largest communities – Greenfield and Northampton. The Pioneer Valley
Metropolitan Planning Organization strongly supports this project, which would
complement a plan to connect Springfield, MA and New Haven, CT with new
commuter service.

• Enhancement of intercity rail service between Boston and New York City via
Worcester, Springfield, Hartford and New Haven. This project would enhance
important intercity rail service and connections for Worcester and Springfield, MA,
and Hartford and New Haven, CT. In addition to enhancing connections among these
important Massachusetts and Connecticut cities, this service would better connect
these cities with Boston (and points north) and New York City (and points south),
improving important regional and interregional connections.

• Establishment of commuter rail service between New Haven, CT and
Springfield, MA. This project would bring much needed commuter rail service
connecting New Haven, Hartford and Springfield, and numerous towns and cities in
between. It also could provide important connections with Bradley International
Airport, multiple links with Amtrak intercity service, and direct links to the existing
Metro North and Shore Line East Commuter Rail in New Haven. The project would
involve railroad right-of-way owned by Amtrak, and would complement north-south
improvements for the Amtrak Vermonter rehabilitation project discussed above.

• Upgrades to portions of the Northeast Corridor in Connecticut to improve Acela
service. As you know, Amtrak’s Acela Express service on the Northeast Corridor is
the nation’s first implementation of high-speed rail. The Acela Express provides a
critically important high-speed connection between Boston, New York City and
Washington, D.C., and points in between. Unfortunately, portions of the Northeast
Corridor between New Haven and New Rochelle preclude the Acela from operating
at its 150 mph capability. Funding necessary improvements to these portions of the
Northeast Corridor could play an important role in increasing speeds – and reducing
travel times – for this important and highly successful high-speed service.

• Construction of the North-South Rail Link (NSRL) in Boston. This linchpin
project would provide an essential connection between Boston’s North and South
Stations, eliminating a significant gap on the Northeast Corridor. The NSRL would
greatly enhance – and leverage investments in – nearly all of the projects discussed
above by extending the Northeast Corridor north to Maine, and by enabling
uninterrupted service through Boston, thereby connecting service from the south (i.e.,
from southern New England, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.) with
service to the north (i.e., the Downeaster, Boston-to-Montreal high speed rail, and N.H. Capitol Corridor projects, discussed above). The NSRL would be a highly
strategic investment for the Northeast Corridor and the northeast region as a whole.
Draft environmental studies for the project already have been completed; next key
steps for the project are updating and finalizing those studies, and conducting
preliminary engineering and design.

We understand the U.S. Department of Transportation is developing its strategic plan to
improve and deploy high-speed passenger rail systems, to be followed by the
development of guidance for the high speed rail corridor program, capital assistance for
intercity passenger rail service grants, and congestion grants. We look forward to the
further development of this important ARRA program. We anticipate that many of the
projects discussed above will seek funding from this program which, we hope, will make
the most of these many opportunities to improve, expand and build off of the Northeast
Corridor, and thereby establish a rail network in New England that is truly regional,
national, and international.

Finally, while the ARRA provides a good and important start for building the rail system
New England and the nation as a whole needs and deserves, we fully understand that
continued, substantial investments in rail infrastructure – both passenger and freight –
will be essential. Accordingly, we look forward to working with you on reauthorization
of the federal transportation law, and on other legislative efforts to generate and direct
more funding to passenger and freight rail, to ensure that ARRA funding is leveraged by
further investments, and that we achieve the efficient, balanced transportation system our
region, and the United States, so desperately need.

Association for Public Transportation
Richard J. Arena, President
P.O. Box 51029
Boston, MA 02205
Fmr. Rep. John A. Businger (MA)
Vice Chair, North-South Rail Link Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC)
33 St. Paul Street
Brookline, MA 02446

Connecticut Public Interest Research Group (ConnPIRG)
Ilicia Balaban, Program Associate
198 Park Road, 2nd Floor
West Hartford, CT 06119

Conservation Law Foundation
Thomas F. Irwin, Senior Attorney
27 North Main Street
Concord, NH 03301

Environment America
Rob McCulloch, Transportation Advocate
218 D Street SE, 2nd Floor
Washington, D.C. 20003

Environment New Hampshire
Piper Crowell, Field Associate
30 South Main Street
Concord, NH 03301

Environment Maine
Katie Kokkinos, Environmental Advocate
9 Exchange Street
Portland, ME 04101

Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MassPIRG)
Eric Bourassa, Consumer Advocate
44 Winter Street, 4th Floor
Boston, MA 02108

David McCluskey, Deputy Speaker
Connecticut State Representative/20th District – West Hartford
Legislative Office Building, Room 4110
Hartford, CT 06106-1591

Molly McKay
Transportation Chair, Connecticut Chapter of the Sierra Club
8 Riverbend Drive
Mystic, CT 06355
National Corridors Initiative

James P. RePass, President & CEO
59 Gates Street
Boston, MA 02127
New England Association of Regional Councils

Timothy W. Brennan
26 Central Street, Suite 34
West Springfield, MA 01089-2787
New Hampshire Businesses for Transportation & Infrastructure
Mark Richardson, President
111 Amherst Street
Manchester, NH 03105

New Hampshire Railroad Revitalization Association
Peter J. Griffin, President
85 West Shore Road
Windham, NH 03087

Pioneer Valley Advocates for Commuter Rail
Herbert Singleton, President
P.O. Box 90845
Springfield, MA 01139

Pioneer Valley Planning Commission
Timothy W. Brennan, Executive Director
26 Central Street, Suite 34
West Springfield, MA 01089-2787

Rhode Island Public Interest Research Group (RIPIRG)
Phineas Baxandall, Ph.D.
Senior Analyst for Tax and Budget Policy
44 Winter Street
Boston, MA 02108

TrainRiders Northeast
Wayne E. Davis, Chairman
Box 4869
Downtown Station
Portland, ME 04112

Phineas Baxandall, Ph.D.
Senior Analyst for Tax and Budget Policy
44 Winter Street
Boston, MA 02108

Vermont Rail Action Network
Christopher Parker, Executive Director
2121 Kurn Hattin Road
Putney, VT 05346

1000 Friends of Connecticut
Heidi Green, President
PO Box 1988 -- 484 Farmington Avenue
Hartford, CT 06144-1988

cc: Mr. Rahm Emanuel, White House Chief of Staff
Mr. Matt Welbes, Federal Transit Administration
Mr. Joseph H. Boardman, President & CEO, Amtrak