24 lawmakers back plans for high-speed rail link between Boston and NYC



Politics

“We strongly believe that we must seize this moment to do more than maintain a state of good repair or make incremental improvements to the existing rail system.”

A map of the proposed rail network. North Atlantic Rail

Two dozen lawmakers from throughout New England and New York have hopped on board a bold proposal aiming to build a regional rail network served by a high-speed rail line between Boston and New York City that would shuttle passengers between the two cities in as quickly as 100 minutes.

The support intends to help persuade the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to consider authorizing the formation of the North Atlantic Rail Corporation — a public-benefit corporation that would serve as the vehicle for making the $105 billion project a reality.

“The North Atlantic Rail Network will be the nation’s first integrated high-speed, high performance and regional rail network, serving the seven-state New York/New England region,” lawmakers wrote to Committee Chairman Rep. Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat with Massachusetts ties himself. “It can serve as a prototype for new 21st century rail networks in the nation’s other mega-regions.”

The project — estimated to take 20 years to complete — would connect New York City and Boston by a 150-to-200-mile-per-hour train, via Providence, Hartford, New Haven, and Long Island. A high performance, intercity rail network — with speeds of 110 to 120 miles per hour — would connect mid-sized cities throughout New England and major hubs on Long Island with the high-speed “spine,” and the project would also feature upgrades and electrification of the existing regional networks in the Boston and New York metro areas, officials say.

As project leaders seek to drum up support from President Joe Biden’s administration, the plans now have the backing of some of Congress’s most influential lawmakers: Massachusetts Democratic Reps. Richard Neal, chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means; Jim McGovern, chairman of the Committee on Rules; and Katherine Clark, assistant speaker; as well as New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney, chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform.

In all, the entire House delegations from Massachusetts and Rhode Island, have lent their support, along with lawmakers throughout the Northeast.

Their pitch to Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure? Include the authorization of the North Atlantic Rail Corporation in the upcoming Surface Transportation Reauthorization Act, the so-called “first down payment” on Biden’s proposed infrastructure plan.

The corporation, if formed, would be a special-purpose entity with a board appointed by the governors of all six New England states and New York. The corporation would partner with Amtrak and other transportation agencies to complete the project on time and on budget.

Once complete, the corporation would hand over the keys to Amtrak and local transit agencies and then disband, lawmakers say.

The cohort of legislators is touting a wide range of benefits for building what would be the nation’s first high speed railroad, from reducing traffic congestion and air pollution to advancing racial and economic justice and short-and long-term job creation goals.

“This is a once in a century opportunity to embrace a truly transformative infrastructure investment,” Doug McGarrah, chairman of A Better City, the Boston-based group of almost 130 local business leaders, and third co-chair of the North Atlantic Rail Alliance, said in a statement Wednesday. “The time is now for such a bold action.”

Construction alone would create tens of thousands of jobs, and expanding transportation options to underserved communities could help bolster affordable housing, as people would be able to live greater distances away from where they work, project organizers have said.

In their letter, lawmakers also highlighted how the region is an economic engine for the country — home to 11 percent of the nation’s population and 14 percent of its economy. The rail system would connect “the research centers of the region,” they wrote.

“President Biden has called for making strategic transformative infrastructure investments that can enable America to compete with China, create jobs for workers and transform the economy of communities that have been left behind. He has also called for a 50 percent reduction in carbon by 2030 and North Atlantic Rail will enable the country to achieve these necessary goals,” the letter reads. “It will connect the critical advanced technology and life science engines of the economy in the region that contribute in excess of 14% of our nation’s GNP. We strongly believe that we must seize this moment to do more than maintain a state of good repair or make incremental improvements to the existing rail system.”

Read the full letter:

NAR House Dear Colleague Letter Final 6.2.21 by Christopher Gavin on Scribd