Federal, state and city officials convened on Friday at Union Station to criticize the federal proposal for a new high-speed railway line in the Northeast Corridor that would skip over Connecticut.
The proposal would require Amtrak to investigate adding a high-speed railway service between Washington, D.C., New York and Boston. In early March, the proposal passed the House of Representatives as an amendment to a larger bill that would authorize $7.2 billion in spending for Amtrak between 2016 and 2019. The bill would also reauthorize Amtrak’s operations after the previous 2008 bill expired in 2013. In the interim, Amtrak has operated without federal authorization.
However, the suggested rail service, a portion of which would utilize Connecticut rail lines, would not include any actual stops in the state — a measure that has brought significant opposition from Connecticut Senators Richard Blumenthal LAW ’73 and Chris Murphy. Speaking alongside Mayor Toni Harp and acting Federal Railway Administrator Sarah Feinberg at the press conference on Friday, Blumenthal called the proposal “dead on arrival.”
“High speed rail without stops in Connecticut is a nonstarter,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “When viewed on the merits, not on politics, I am confident that there will be broad support for such a stop.”
At the conference, Blumenthal said he thought politics could have been a contributing factor in excluding a Connecticut stop on the new line, the CT Mirror reported. He said that a U.S. Congress with a Republican House and Senate might not be receptive to Connecticut and its Democratic congressional delegation. Blumenthal also noted that some of the other legislators may have believed that fewer stops could save money and time.
Republican Florida Rep. John Mica, who sponsored the amendment, said on the House floor March 4 that the current rail service from Boston to New York runs 68 miles an hour on average. Referring to the speed as “third-world kind of operations,” he said express service could be attained at faster speeds and less travel time.
In addition to battling this House bill, Blumenthal said he aims to craft a Senate bill which would include a Connecticut stop.
Likewise, Gov. Dannel Malloy intends to work actively to stop any high speed rail project that would not stop in the state, according to his spokesman Devon Puglia.
Officials highlighted Connecticut’s crucial position in the Northeast Corridor and the success of New Haven’s Union Station as key reasons why a stop should be included on the new line. City and state officials cited statistics such as the 6,000 passengers who pass through the station on a daily basis, amounting to 700,000 in a year.
“The Northeast Corridor is the only one of Amtrak three business lines that consistently makes money, with Connecticut playing a vital role,” Blumenthal said. “Any high-speed rail proposal simply cannot afford to ignore those facts.”
City Hall spokesman Laurence Grotheer noted that, if the state is indeed passed over by the rail service, the regional economy would be hit. Moreover, the service would deny rail passengers the opportunity to engage with the state in both business and education, he added.
New Haven is the 10th busiest Amtrak station in the nation.