CT senators vow to block high-speed rail that bypasses state

An artist's rendering of an Amtrak high speed train in Boston.

Amtrak 2012 report

An artist\’s rendering of an Amtrak high speed train in Boston.

Updated 5:48 p.m. March 6

Washington –  Connecticut’s U.S. senators on Friday vowed to stop a proposal approved in the House of Representatives this week that would require Amtrak to study the feasibility of a new high-speed train from Washington, D.C., to Boston — with no stops in Connecticut.

“High-speed rail without stops in Connecticut is a nonstarter,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., in a statement. “I will strongly and steadfastly oppose any proposal for high-speed rail that uses Connecticut tracks but bypasses Connecticut stations.”

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said, “I cannot and will not support any efforts that seek to abandon the existing Northeast Corridor rail line – and the hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents that rely on it every year.”

The furor was caused by a provision, sponsored by Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., that was included in a House bill that would authorize the spending of nearly $8 billion to shore up Amtrak for the next five years. It would require Amtrak to evaluate a new non-stop service between Washington, D.C., and New York and between New York and Boston in six months.

The bill passed the House this week. But Congress has not approved an Amtrak authorization bill since 2008, and it’s not clear the Senate will act on the House bill this year.

If it does, Blumenthal, who sits on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that would have authorization over an Amtrak bill, said he’s ready to take on Mica’s proposal.

“The New Haven Line is the busiest rail line in America for a reason — Connecticut residents demand and depend on robust rail service,” he said. “I will work vigorously to stop in its tracks any effort to ignore our state’s critical needs, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the delegation who share my concerns about this issue.”

The study that would be commissioned if Mica’s proposal is included in a final Amtrak bill would be just the first step in a very long process. But Murphy said he is ready to stop the high-speed rail effort in its tracks in the Appropriations Committee if there’s an attempt to fund the plan at the expense of the New Haven line.

“The existing corridor needs upwards of $50 billion in investment over the next 20 years just to keep up with projected demand,” Murphy said. “I sit on the Senate Transportation Appropriations subcommittee, which decides where federal Amtrak funds can be spent. I will fight any attempts to rob Peter to pay Paul by investing in new rail service that forsakes the New Haven Line – and the countless jobs it helps support.”

Mica’s proposal would require Amtrak to study the estimated trip time, ridership, revenue, total cost, capacity “and other metrics” for the new service as well as the impact on existing Amtrak and commuter rail services and on the Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak would have six months to complete the study, and the rail company’s Board of Directors 90 days to consider implementing the service.

A spokesman for Gov. Dannel Malloy said earlier that the governor would also move to block any high-speed service that did not stop in Connecticut.

After his proposal cleared the House, Mica said he’d consider a plan that made one stop in the state.

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