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Escalating gas prices make the idea of a refurbished, passenger-carrying Central Corridor Rail line all the more enticing. Its potential to boost economic growth could make it a winner.
Sure, the idea of upgrading 110 miles of railway from New London to Brattleboro, Vt. (a portion of the New England Central freight line, formerly Central Vermont Railway) for enhanced freight and passenger service is now only an idea. But it is an idea that could benefit eastern Connecticut and that makes it a proposal worth considering.
New England Central owns the railway that runs all the way to the Canadian border. It proposes invigorating freight service and introducing passenger trains to serve places such as Uncasville, Norwich, Willimantic, Mansfield/Storrs, Stafford Springs and stops in Massachusetts and Vermont.
One appealing aspect of the plan is the idea of creating a "knowledge web." The rail line runs through or very close by to communities housing more than 70,000 college students, including the University of Connecticut at Storrs, Connecticut College, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. It would be terrific if a UConn student could take a van from campus to the Mansfield/Storrs depot and catch a train back to Norwich or New London.
New England Central was pitching its $100 million plan in Norwich this week and made a similar presentation at Union Station in New London last fall. The idea complements Connecticut's existing rail, including Shore Line East and Metro-North, providing new travel options and connections for passengers and creating opportunities for businesses, industry and tourism.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is supportive of rail and has joined the state's congressional delegation in asking the Obama administration to consider sending some of the $2 billion that Florida's governor recently rejected for high-speed rail infrastructure in his state to Connecticut.
"Everyone knows that effective transportation is crucial to keeping the economy moving," Gov. Malloy said in making his pitch.
And the governor is correct. While the Central Corridor Rail project isn't high-speed and likely wouldn't qualify for such monies, it is a logical rail link along an underserved route that could benefit commerce and business. Like the Downeaster that runs 116 miles between Boston and Portland, Maine, it could prove hugely popular.
While the idea is fairly new in Connecticut, Massachusetts officials have been promoting the Central Corridor project for some time. An organized coalition is expected to begin an appeal soon for funds for a feasibility study to determine what it would take get the project moving. All aboard.
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