October 19, 2018

SECoast, CT Trust for Historic Preservation Request 60-Day Extension to NRA Waiting Period

We have just received the text of a letter sent by SECoast and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation to the Federal Railroad Administration requesting an extension of the 30-day waiting period to 60 days. It reads as follows::

The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation and SECoast, our regional partner on high-speed rail planning issues, are writing to ask for your assistance to extend the current 30-day waiting period for the NEC Future Final Environmental Impact Statement by 60 days. Given the enormous size of the planning document, its release just one week before end-of-year holidays and the extreme concern for the preferred alternative route now expressed in communities throughout Connecticut (and additionally Rhode Island) we believe there is a strong argument that such an extension is in the public interest.

The current deadline of January 31, 2016 marks the end of the Tier 1 planning process for the Northeast Corridor (NEC), an early but critical step in the overall implementation of a master plan for the corridor. Finalization of this document will commit the plan to a single corridor through Connecticut rather than from the three corridors under study in the DEIS. Finalization of this document will replace the corridor’s current master plan, dating to 1978,  for rail travel and investment along the Northeast Corridor with a new Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (P-EIS) with a 25-year horizon of 2040.

To be clear, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get this right. Both the public and the NEC Future plan deserve the benefit of a thorough final public review and opportunity to comment. We believe an extended comment period would also offer the best opportunity to avoid unnecessary legal action by providing the Federal Railroad Administration an opportunity to correct evident errors in the planning process and resulting NEC Future plan.

Such an extension is both a commonsense and commonplace. Indeed, a similar extension was granted to review much less extensive plans for the “All Aboard Florida” high speed rail planning initiative in Florida. The Federal Railroad Administration has enjoyed flexible deadlines throughout the planning process, most recently missing an intended late summer/early fall release date of the Preferred Alternative and FEIS documentation. Surely, the people of Connecticut deserve an equivalent opportunity to provide informed and meaningful comment before this critical document is finalized.

We appreciate, in advance, your continuing efforts to advocate for communities in the state of Connecticut and for our joint efforts to develop rail-travel along the Northeast Corridor in a way that recognizes and respects the unique historical, cultural and environmental attributes of Connecticut communities.

More to come.

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