High-speed rail linking New York and Boston gets renewed interest

February 16, 2021

A decades-old plan to build a high-speed railroad connecting New York, NY and Boston, MA that could include a 16-mile tunnel under Long Island Sound has received renewed interest in part from President Joe Biden’s promise invest $2 trillion on clean energy infrastructure.

The Associated Press reported that the new North Atlantic Rail plan was developed at University of Pennsylvania planning studios. It calls for improving existing lines and building new infrastructure, including boring the 16-mile tunnel, to create an electric high-speed line that would allow travel at well over 200 mph and cut the current train trip of about 3.5 hours between the two cities to just over 1.5 hours officials said.

Amtrak's current trains can go as fast as 150 mph but travel much slower than that on much of the current aging track.

The price tag for the project is estimated to be more than $100 billion.

"This probably should have been done decades ago," said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin, who is a co-chair of the coalition of interests pushing the plan.

Robert Yaro, a planner at the University of Pennsylvania and the former president of the Regional Plan Association, developed the latest model. Because of recent improvements in tunneling technology, he said, it's not as far-fetched as it sounds.

"There are 36 tunnels of this length or longer that have been built or are under construction around the world in the last 10 years alone — over 100 in the last 20 years," he said. "This is what the world is doing."

Critics have noted that officials have failed to get local and environmental approvals for much smaller transportation ideas, such as an expressway that would link Hartford and Providence, Rhode Island, or even an expansion of state Route 11 in eastern Connecticut, a highway meant to finish a link between Hartford and New London, that currently dead-ends after 7 miles.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said that with the commitment of Biden and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to improving transportation infrastructure, he is among those who believe the time is right to start thinking about improving train travel in the Northeast.

But Blumenthal said the focus should be on rebuilding the Hudson Tunnel in New York and the existing tracks between that city and New Haven, not building an underwater tunnel in an area where the costs could be prohibitive and plans for pipelines have consistently been beaten back because of environmental concerns.


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