Wednesday, April 1, 2009

1000 Friends Joins New England Regional Rail Coalition

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Tom Irwin, (603) 225-3060 tirwin@clf.org
Caitlin Inglehart, (617) 850-1755, cinglehart@clf.org
Heidi Green, (860) 523-0003, hegreen@1000friends-ct.org

NEW ENGLAND REGIONAL RAIL COALITION URGES FUNDING FOR RAIL
$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 tirwin@clf.org.

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The Conservation Law Foundation (www.clf.org) 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 (www.1000friends-ct.org) 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
system.

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.

Respectfully,
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

U.S. PIRG
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

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