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Infrastructure Debate Spurs Latest Push For New York-Boston High-Speed Rail

Image by David Z from Pixabay

Funding for high-speed passenger rail service that would get commuters from New York to Boston in just an hour and forty minutes needs to be included in the federal infrastructure debate, according to over 20 members of Congress from New York and New England this week.

Reps. Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Jim Himes (D-CT), and John Larson (D-CT), among other Democrats, sent a letter to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR) calling for him to authorized funding to establish a new North Atlantic Rail network .

The fully-electric system, which could reach speeds of over 200 miles per hour, would have stops in New York City, Long Island, New Haven, Hartford, Providence, and Boston, as well as other local stops that are a part of the expanded regional service throughout New York and New England:

  • New York City to Boston in 100 minutes, instead of four hours.
  • Jamaica, Queens to New York City in 10 minutes, instead of 30 minutes.
  • Jamaica, Queens to New Haven in 36 minutes, instead of around two hours.
  • New York City to New Haven in 46 minutes, instead of 94 minutes.
  • Hartford to New Haven in 18 minutes, instead of 53 minutes.

“This proposed network will underpin the continued growth and prosperity of the seven-state region for decades to come,” the letter said. “This region has long been one of America’s economic engines, with 11% of the nation’s population and 14% of its economy. [The rail network] will address the severe and growing highway, rail and air congestion that is undermining the vitality of the region’s innovation and technology sectors, which will be essential to America’s continued global economic competitiveness in decades to come.”
The estimated cost of the proposal is $105 billion and could take up to 30 years to complete. Proponents credit the proposal for increasing housing flexibility, and providing an economic lifeline to small Connecticut cities between New York and Boston, such as New Haven and Hartford.

Under the current renderings, Long Island will also gain high-speed regional service from Ronkonkma to Penn Station, a 16-18 mile tunnel-line from Ronkonkoma to New England, beneath Long Island Sound, as well as modernization of the Long Island Rail Road on Riverhead and the Oyster Bay branches.

Senior advisor to the project, Peter Howe, said the tunnel is how the trains will be able to get to 200 miles per hour.

“[That] would never happen on the New Haven-New York Northeast Corridor tracks of today,” he said.

Suozzi, one of the leaders of the proposal, said the funding need is urgent regarding the project.

“Now is the time to authorize this massive high-speed rail project which will not only dramatically improve the quality of life and economy of the seven states affected, it will also produce an enormous amount of jobs,” he said in a statement. “With infrastructure talk happening in Washington every day, now is the time for a big, bold investment in a high-speed rail that will further economic prosperity in the Northeast for years to come. It’s on all of us in the Northeast to build a coalition and do all we can to make high-speed rail a reality.”

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said the program is a groundbreaking proposal with multifaceted benefits.

“I think one of the things that’s so powerful about the North Atlantic Rail proposal is that it advances so many critical priorities, from near-term job creation right to long-term economic opportunity to housing opportunity,” he said. “I think we have a historic opportunity right now.”

Bronin said that he expects some hestitiation from the community in taking on such a transformative project, but does not believe that should be a deterrence and that the project would be completed over multiple stages, including making “long-overdue improvements” to existing rail lines.

“That is a multi-year, multi-state project, portions of which would require intensive stakeholder engagement,” he said. “That's always the case with large infrastructure projects.”

On Long Island, Zeldin, a Republican, said he supports for the proposal, though he did not sign on to the letter of mostly Democrats. He said the project would "bring high wage jobs to Long Island and improve civilian transportation and the flow of commerce throughout the region.”

Leah is a former intern with WSHU Public Radio.