By Nick Fabiani, who writes the blog CT-6
That’s from President Obama’s high speed rail plan. If you’ll note, it makes some changes to the current Northeast Corridor (the blue line).
The Northeast Corridor is currently the ONLY high speed rail line in the country, but as anyone can tell you, that doesn’t mean much. As an avid train rider, I can’t put in words my disappointment with the Acela system between New Haven and New York. However, Obama’s plan serves to change some of that. Under his plan, existing rail lines will have their tracks updated, so that they are legitimately high speed-capable. From the New York Times coverage of his announcement:
“Imagine whisking through towns at speeds over 100 miles an hour, walking only a few steps to public transportation, and ending up just blocks from your destination,” Mr. Obama said. “It is happening right now; it’s been happening for decades. The problem is, it’s been happening elsewhere, not here.”
The Federal Railroad Administration defines high-speed rail as any train traveling 90 m.p.h. or faster. In Japan, the Shinkansen trains average about 180 m.p.h. The TGV train in France uses special tracks to sustain speeds of 133 m.p.h. on the Paris-Lyon route.
The Acela Express operated by Amtrak is capable of a speed of 150 m.p.h., but track conditions and other rail traffic bring its average speed to just over half that.
And this country serves to benefit greatly from high speed rail…especially Connecticut.
Connecticut will get a great deal of money in the next Highway Funding Authorization bill for a myriad of reasons, but mainly because we use public transportation. We must fight, like Massachusetts, for the right to use this federal funding to build commuter rail lines.
One of the biggest problems in Obama’s rail line plan is that it doesn’t connect Bradley Airport to either New York or Boston. I was thrilled to see the plan calling for a connection FINALLY between Springfield and Boston, which would serve to connect Hartford to Boston via Springfield and Worcester, greatly helping the entire region. But we may have finally found an ally in the fight to connect Hartford: Chairman of the House Transportation Committee Rep. James Oberstar:
Bradley could pull in a lot of those short-haul flights going to New York and Boston’s airports, but only if you have high-speed trains to get people to New York and Boston.
Strong words from a man in power.
But imagine how much the economy in Connecticut will be helped by another line connecting Boston and New York, traveling exclusively through Connecticut, connecting through Hartford. And imagine how much it will help ease traffic if we could have stops in Waterbury, New Britain, and Enfield. By connecting the major non-rail cities in Connecticut, we can ease traffic and bring in more people to revitalize our economy.
Fortunately, most of this fight is going to have to occur on the local and state level. Once the federal money is appropriated, we must be willing to stand our ground and fight for rail lines that connect our major cities, instead of just catering to the shore. Heck, even light rail right now would be a huge boon. Lines such as Metro North and Shoreline East have proven to be immensely successful. We need to extend service to connect more of Connecticut through rail.