A proposed high-speed rail upgrade across the northeastern United States has been stirring up controversy. The upgrades would significantly reduce journey times, with D.C. to New York taking around 2 hours and 15 minutes, but residents worry that historic towns along the route will be ruined in the process. It’s an important lesson that local opposition can disrupt future infrastructure plans, particularly when residents feel left out of the planning process.
NEC Future, the team behind the plan, was set up in February 2012 by the Federal Road Administration to decide how best to upgrade the 457-mile corridor. The plan put forward in December would cost around $120 billion and cut through eight states.
But cool as a super fast rail corridor may seem, locals are angry about the way the plan has come together. One state senator accused the administration of “pretend[ing] that this is the Wild West and you can just lay down tracks in open land.” The states will need to approve the final plan before construction can begin.
A new bypass proposed for the Connecticut portion of the route would cut through Old Lyme, a historic town and popular summer resort. Rhode Island politicians have also expressed concerns about the sections of the bypass in their state.
This is the proposed route below, with the controversial section in the top right:
“Significant concerns have been raised about the impact that the representative route could have on conservation land, tribal land, family farms and neighborhoods in Washington (South) County in Rhode Island,” the state’s two senators and two congressmen wrote in a letter sent to NEC Future last week.
There are signs that the administration is listening. On Monday, CT Mirror reported that the government reacted to these concerns by extending the deadline for locals to submit reactions to the plan. The government has also suggested it may alter the route depending on feedback. Depending on the concessions local residents receive, the rail upgrades may go ahead after all.