Virginia Lee’s Recent Letter to our US Senators

The following letter was sent to our US Senators on February 4th and is shared with us here by the author Virginia Lee. Virginia Lee is the President of the Charlestown Town Council.

Dear Senators Reed and Whitehouse:

I am writing to urge you again to request the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to drop the Old Saybrook to Kenyon Bypass from the NEC Future before the end of the Tier 1 EIS.

It is crucial not to let the proposed Bypass go to Tier 2. By stopping it now, you will:

  1. Ensure fast rail service to Providence. The FRA proposed Bypass actually holds fast train service hostage to a lengthy process of eminent domain, numerous lawsuits and finding funding, whereas moving the preferred alternative to the current rail right of way allows upgrades and engineering to occur now to improve train service to Providence. Moreover the Bypass does not do what it is intended to. Because it includes a tunnel, future fast trains will go slower than they do now. (According to Amtrak officials, fast trains have to slow to 80-90 mph to go through a tunnel; the Acela currently averages 100mph on the existing tracks through Charlestown and Richmond).
  2. Create jobs now. Upgrading the current rail bed means construction and engineering jobs now, not waiting 30-40 years from now when the eminent domain process necessary for the Bypass is complete.
  3. Save Money. The Bypass will cost over a billion dollars. Upgrade the existing rail bed and save RI taxpayers millions of dollars.
  4. Save time and avoid costly lawsuits. The state of RI, five municipalities, land trusts, and the Narragansett Indian Tribe are obligated to go to court to protect dozens of properties conserved in perpetuity, which the Bypass threatens to destroy.
  5. Save farms and open space that are valued by residents from all over the state of RI and beyond. Remove the shadow of diminished property values that will needlessly hang over citizens for 30-40 years near the Bypass, as is happening in CT.
  6. Join with colleagues in the State of CT to keep fast train service in RI. The Governor of CT, Senator and legislators oppose the Old Saybrook to Kenyon Bypass. It makes no sense to keep it in RI if it doesn’t connect through CT.

Moreover, the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Tier 1 Final EIS is deficient with respect to impacts in Charlestown and neighboring towns and the entire EIS process from scoping in 2012 until and including the December 2016 release of the Final EIS has not followed the spirit of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This has resulted in significant omissions in the natural and cultural resource data, especially with respect to Section 4(f) and Section 6(f) resources. The FRA’s use of incomplete data has resulted in a fundamentally flawed EIS. The many omissions and misrepresentations have already been summarized and sent to you. Because of the many and extreme negative environmental and cultural impacts that would be caused by the new rail segment known as the “Old Saybrook to Kenyon Bypass” we ask that the Bypass be removed from the plan before the Record of Decision (ROD) in Tier 1.

In short, drop the Bypass now, fix the current railway infrastructure and ensure fast train service to Providence. Thank you for your leadership on this!


Virginia Lee
Charlestown Town Council

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