Rhode Island Association of Railroad Passengers Opposes Bypass in Charlestown

The Rhode Island Association of Railroad Passengers has reviewed the NEC Future Tier One Final EIS and submitted the following comments to the Federal Railroad Administration. These comments include opposition to the additional rail lines in Charlestown and criticism of other aspects of the plan. We have highlighted the Charlestown area comments.

Comments by the Rhode Island Association of Railroad Passengers on the Final Tier One EIS for the Northeast Rail Road Corridor.

The Rhode Island Association of Railroad Passengers appreciates the opportunity to comment on the Final Tier One EIS as it applies to tracks running within the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. By and large, we accept the need to make these improvements to improve trip times and ride quality. We also think that running the NEC through Providence was the right decision.

The EIS has proposed a bypass running from Old Saybrook to Kenyon, Rhode Island. We understand that rising ocean levels may cause problems with the existing route. However, the current right of way is extremely straight from just east of Westerly to East Greenwich. This is evidenced by the fact that Amtrak currently runs it’s Acela trains at the highest speeds currently being run in the country. The proposal does not consider the realistic alternative of connecting the bypass to Westerly station. Since most of the bypass would be by tunnels, there is no reason why a tunnel couldn’t be built from Westerly to Interstate 95 directly. In doing so, the super-elevation at Westerly Station could be eliminated. The super-elevated track is necessary because of the curve in the tracks just west of the station as the tracks cross the Pawcatuck River. By eliminating the super-elevation, it would now be possible to build high level platforms making the station ADA Accessible. The amount of tunneling would be reduced as the distance from Westerly Station to Interstate 95 is less.

Between Mileposts 475 and 482 (as shown on the EIS Maps), the EIS Proposes to straighten the line. In doing so it bisects the Frances C. Carter Memorial Reserve. This reserve was completely overlooked in the EIS analysis. The straightening also manages to cut through the Amos Green Farm and the Stoney Hill Cattle Co, which is a 4th Generation Family Farm. It also fills in wetlands at the Burlingame Wild Life Preserve and the Great Swamp Management Area in Kingston. Because the trains already travel at high speeds, it is difficult to see why this expenditure is needed. And the few seconds (if any gained) hardly justify the economic and environmental damage done by rerouting the tracks. Also, the money saved could be better used on the other proposals made in the EIS.

The EIS also recommends an additional track between East Greenwich and the current commuter stop at the Airport. While desirable, the right of way from Apponaug south is very constricted and would be expensive to widen. In East Greenwich itself, the right of way runs between East Greenwich Bay and a cliff. Blasting away the cliff would increase noise pollution to houses above the track.

Rather the spending on the above section, what is really needed is a fourth track at the Airport Station. If the new track as well the freight track (known of the FRIP) were electrified, then Amtrak could stop its regional trains there, thus complementing the existing MBTA commuter service. The additional track is also needed north of the station.

The station in Warwick is labeled T.F.Green Airport. The historic name is Hillsgrove which is the name of the village in which the station is located. The MBTA station was constructed by the Airport Authority as an adjunct to their rental car facility, hence their self-serving name of T.F. Green Airport Station. If Amtrak was to build their own station (or have one constructed for them), the proper name should be HILLSGROVE/T.F. Green Airport Station. The Airport code for the Airport is PVD which is the same code Amtrak uses for the downtown Providence Station. To call the rail station “Warwick” would be incorrect especially if a second commuter station in Warwick was constructed at Apponaug. The city hall is located at Apponaug.

Steven H. Musen, Chair Rhode Island Association of Railroad Passengers

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