Coming Round The Bend? High-Speed Rail Line May Slice Through Saugatuck

It pays to read what the government puts out.

Lawmakers are fond of sticking something on page 1218 of proposed bills that turn out to be a windfall for one constituent who runs a casino, owns a farm or wants to sell something in China.

Department officials, meanwhile, put out studies about future projects. Take this recent one from the Federal Railroad Administration, about high-speed transportation from Boston to Washington.

Speeds of 200 miles an hour sound great!

Of course, we’d need new rail lines.

Whoooosh!

Whoooosh!

According to “NEC Future” — NEC meaning Northeast Corridor — a new 2-track infrastructure would begin in New Rochelle. It would run through coastal Fairfield County.

And it would terminate in Westport, west of the Greens Farms station.

This “preferred alternative” would be constructed “parallel to I-95, typically on embankment or aerial structure.”

According to Matthew Mandell — RTM representative, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce director and Slice of Saugatuck founder — “we could be talking about a train running right along 95, above and over Tarry Lodge, Tutti’s, the Duck and out over the river.”

Or, he says, “maybe a bit more north through who knows what.”

A map in the "NEC Future" report, showing a possible high-speed rail line route. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

A map in the “NEC Future” report, showing a possible high-speed rail line route. Click on or hover over to enlarge.

First Selectman Jim Marpe is on the case. He wrote a letter to the Railroad Administration, noting “extreme concern” — at minimum — in Westport about the possible route.

Marpe cited impacts on coastal resources, property owners and the Saugatuck neighborhood.

Mandell says, “While this may be decades away, so was 95 at some point — and look what it did.”

(Click here for the entire “NEC Future” report. For the appendix only — with maps — click here. Hat tip: Scott Smith)

17 responses to “Coming Round The Bend? High-Speed Rail Line May Slice Through Saugatuck

  1. Mandell says, “While this may be decades away, so was 95 at some point — and look what it did.”

    What did it do? Make it easier to get to and from Westport? Get trucks off the Post Road?

    Westport as part of the high speed NEC may be a huge boon to the town.

  2. Long overdue. Time to start thinking about the future.

  3. Beth Orlan Berkowitz

    I think we need more information. It says that it will start in New Rochelle and end just west of Green’s farms in Westport so how would it be travel between Boston and DC? Would it stop in Westport or would it stop where Amtrak stops in Bridgeport and stamford?

    There are too many unanswered questions to be for or against them building these two new tracks for high speed trains. We don’t yet know what the potential benefits may be or how it would be a detriment to Westport. I live in the SAUGATUCK neighborhood and I wouldn’t want a negative impact, but if I would be beneficial it could be a good move. How loud would it be or Woud it be similar to the train sounds we have now?

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

  4. Mary (Cookman) Schmerker Staples 1958

    To me, this spells bad news. Rail traffic will not eliminate trucks. My guess is that it will not get trucks off the Post Road on to I95. I doubt that it will convince more people to take Rail verses driving their own vehicle. It would destroy views sheds, ecologically sensitive areas and add noise and perhaps more pollution. I just don’t see this as an answer…. to anything .

  5. David J. Loffredo

    High Speed between New Roc and Westport? How does that get us into Manhattan or up to Boston any quicker? “Huge Boon” to the town might be a bit of a stretch, last time I checked all the Wall Street firms abandoned Stamford.

    • Modern rail lines are built in segments.

    • Look at the first page of the appendix through Dan’s link: yes, it is high-speed from Washington DC to Boston. But Westport to New Rochelle is one of the four or five places that require a “new segment” to be built, rather than using the existing tracks.

    • David, the idea is to upgrade the existing NE Corridor rail route by various improvements and bypasses, including the one from New Roc to Westport, to save money vs. building an all-new line.

      However, based on past experience, the work — in the unlikely event it is ever completed — will probably cost far more than an all-new railroad built in France or Japan.

  6. Matthew Mandell

    The entire line would be from Washington to Boston. The section that affects us in the report is New Rochelle to Greens Farms.

    It would not stop in Westport. It would stop in Stamford and New Haven, not even Bridgeport.

    The issue with it coming through, is not that better service would not be good, but where it would be placed and what affects on the ground it would cause. So what if it does not follow along 95 which the map shows it might not. Through which neighborhoods? Eminent Domain of properties and those adjacent would have an elevated train right next door. What does that do to property values? Would people who have million dollar homes suddenly lose that value? Talk about a game changer. Placement is the key and that is why First Selectman Marpe spoke up about Westport’s participation.

    When 95 came in in the 50s Saugatuck was a thriving community, it was cut in half, this could happen again in another area, or we can try to work to place it as best we can.

  7. The route looks like it will tear up sections of Norwalk and Darien as well along Route 1. Jim Marpe should team up with the mayors of those towns to engage on this issue.

    Art Schoeller
    President
    Greens Farms Association

  8. Hmm – anyone who has ever ridden on the “shoreline” rail route up to Boston knows that it is full of curves , reducing maximum speeds. It also crosses over and alongside numerous coastal inlets, making it subject to rising sea levels, and assuring vastly more expensive construction costs to upgrade and expand it.

    The more obvious route is the shorter one: inland, via Hartford, approximating the route most of us drive. In addition, the land between Hartford and the western suburbs of Boston is among the least densely populated in the northeast US, meaning far less disruption to communities and cheaper land acquisition costs.

  9. The Federal and regional rail authorities in the US have a long history of incompetence, immensely bloated costs and lack of progress. There have been numerous pieces written comparing rail construction costs and those in the US are astounding compared with other countries.

    For example: a very complex Paris Metro extension project recently was completed for $193 million per KM, compared with the 2nd Ave Subway @ over $1 billion per KM.

    See http://www.realclearpolicy.com/blog/2015/03/31/high_costs_may_explain_crumbling_support_for_us_infrastructure_1249.html

  10. On second thought, does Donald’s B$ Wall count as infrastructure?
    If so, rail improvements may have to wait.